ASH WEDNESDAY 2023: Lent: A time to begin anew.

Today we begin the season of Lent. It is a period of fasting, prayer and works of charity as we prepare for Easter. It is a time when we are called to repent. As the first reading emphasises, true conversion comes from the heart. We must not be afraid to embrace this call because God is merciful, and if we have turned away from him in any way, he is always willing to welcome us back. We must therefore make good use of the time given to us because every moment is precious, and we shall be held accountable for the use of our time at the end of our lives.

In the Gospel, Jesus teaches us to shun false piety. We must not parade our good deeds before people to receive their praise. The season of Lent must be a personal journey with Christ; not a time to build our public image as Christians. We must share our faith and commitment to doing the will of God.

Today, more than ever, the season of Lent calls us to true repentance through the sincere practice of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Lent is a time to lift our hearts to God in prayer. It is a time to allow him to speak to us in the silence of our hearts. This is the time when we hear more strongly the Lord saying to us: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10); and “Peace, be still” (Matthew 8:23-27).  During Lent, we will learn to deny ourselves, bear the challenges of each day and follow Jesus closely (cf. Luke 9:23). During this time too, frequent confession helps us to place ourselves at the mercy of God and treat others likewise for the way we treat them is the way we treat our Lord (cf. Matthew 18:21-35; 25:40).  This is the time when we purify our souls and begin anew knowing that we show true repentance by the way we behave. 

We shall soon receive the blessed ashes as a sign of our repentance, and it reminds us that we are made from dust. This humbling experience must challenge us to repent and live according to Gospel values. We must intensify our struggle to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. Let us avail ourselves of the blessings that this holy season sets before us so that we may celebrate Easter with profound joy.

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