Next Wednesday in the Church year is Ash Wednesday. It is a day of fasting and abstinence. Guidelines concerning fasting and abstinence can be found at the USCCB website. Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of people as a reminder of human mortality, and as a sign of repentance and contrition. It marks the beginning of the Lenten season. Lent is the time, approximating forty days, of reflection and penance leading up to Easter.
Pope Francis stated that Lent is a time to spiritually challenge Christians and to help them see that God can give them strength to change their lives and their surroundings. He stated in a recent Lenten Message, “I urge the members of the Church to take up the Lenten journey with enthusiasm, sustained by almsgiving, fasting and prayer. If, at times, the flame of charity seems to die in our own hearts, know that this is never the case in the heart of God. He constantly gives us a chance to begin life anew.” Pope Francis also urged the faithful to “Return without fear to those outstretched, eager arms of your Father, who is rich in mercy, who awaits you. Return without fear, for this is the favorable time to come home.”
As we reflect on these sentiments of Our Holy Father, we are encouraged to turn to God and seek renewal in heart, mind and body. We can respond to the challenge to live a Christian life and truly turn away from sin and toward the living God, and we can avail ourselves of the sacrament of Reconciliation. The sacrament is not here to punish us, but rather to get us closer to the God who loves us. It is here to heal, not to condemn, and to get us back on track spiritually.
As an aid to our Lenten journey, a schedule of important dates, events and liturgies during Lent and during Holy Week can be found on the Parish website. This schedule also includes details concerning our Lenten Parish Mission, and the date of our Parish Penance Service. In addition this weekend, and on Ash Wednesday, we will have available a booklet called “The Cycle of the Mass and Your Life” which we hope will enhance your appreciation for and understanding of the Mass, and how it impacts your call to discipleship. Please take a copy of the booklet as you leave the Church after Mass. We invite you to contact Deacon Henry Hein in the Parish office if you have any questions about the booklet.
As we begin our Lenten journey, please take every opportunity to avail yourself of this special time of grace.