THE BEGINNING THE CHALLENGE OF LENT 2020
Ash Wednesday is a very important day in the life of the Church because this is the official beginning of Lent. On that day, we are receive ashes during the Mass, the ashes are blessed and imposed. These are ashes that come from the palms and branches blessed on Palm Sunday last year. These palms and branches are symbols of our faith in Christ, to whom we renew our baptismal promises during the Easter Vigil celebration. But now these palms and branches are dry, brown and unpleasant to look at which symbolize our souls that for the past months are soiled again by our imperfections, disloyalty and sins.
There are some basic ancient practices of Lent and are mentioned by our gospel today that may help us, like: prayer, fasting, almsgiving or works of mercy. These three practices make us reach out to God as well as to our neighbour. Our Christian life is characterized by these three things together every day of the year:
We receive each one of us a black cross on our foreheads. It reminds us that soon we will return to dust. And Lent calls us back to basics: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Let us turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel. How do we want to use this allotted time for God?
When Lent begins we often ask each other “What have you given up for Lent?”, and the answer is something like Smoking, chocolate, sweets, biscuits, alcohol, swearing.”
We need to be more positive and ask “What are you going to do extra for Lent?” The answers might be “Drive more carefully, take more exercise, eat less, be more helpful about the house, drink more moderately, be kinder and look for the good in everyone, try to come to Mass during the week, remember my prayers and try to say a grace or a “thankyou” to God before and after means.”
The idea of Lent is to try and get rid of any bad habits we have picked up over the years and try to encourage good ones in our lives. We try to get rid of some of the burdens that weigh us down and set ourselves to become much freer.
So, for example, when we come into church we should dip our fingers in the Holy Water stoup and bless ourselves with the sign of the cross; this reminds us that when we were baptised we became children of God. Let us do this thoughtfully and carefully.
We might also spend a few moments looking over the Scripture readings, readying ourselves to listen attentively to the Word of Good, so that when the Word is proclaimed we will have a better understanding of it.
All very simple, but eminently do-able. Such small matters will help us make Lent a positive and productive time for us all.