Ash Wednesday – “Be reconciled to God” during Lent

Bishop Michael Smith celebrated Mass for Ash Wednesday in the Cathedral of Christ the King, which is hosting a “Day of prayer and penance”.  There are priests available for confessions in the Cathedral from 8.00am until 8.00pm while Eucharistic Adoration also takes place during that time.

In his homily at the morning Mass, Bishop Smith said:

“The words from the Prophet Joel act as a preface to our observance of Lent.  The ritual of sackcloth and ashes was frequently invoked in the Old Testament, with similar cultic practices of repentance initiated in the times of Moses and Jonah.

“The tradition of blessing and imparting ashes has been adopted by the Christian tradition.  St Paul in today’s second reading, however, adds a significant dimension to the penitential practice.  The purpose of these endeavours – indeed, the purpose of the Christian life – is to “be reconciled with God”.  It is in this way that God’s saving love touches human lives.  Christ has made it possible for us to “be reconciled with God”, no longer through the rendering of garments but through conversion of the heart.

“The forty days of Lent give us opportunities for conversion, turning our hearts to the Lord.  Here the Gospel from St Matthew identifies key elements of the Lenten observance.  Almsgiving deepens the bonds of solidarity and communion that exist in the human family.  The needs of our brothers and sisters, for instance, in Malawi who struggle to find clean water for their children are a call from the Lord to share with others from the abundance with which we have been blessed.  Fasting is an expression of our mourning for sins and a willingness to be humble before the Lord.  Both almsgiving and fasting are to be rooted in prayer; they are supported by prayer and nourished by prayer.  The fuller text of today’s Gospel, taken from the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5 – 7), can provide fruitful reflection before the Lord during the Lenten period.  The Beatitudes and the Lord’s prayer take us to the heart of Christ’s message.  It is “our Father in Heaven” who sees as “blessed” those who are poor in spirit, merciful and thirsting for righteousness.  The coming of His Kingdom for which we petition in the Lord’s prayer is enabled by our putting into practice the values of the Beatitudes, seeing all things through the eyes of God. Being “reconciled to God”, we can share in the fruits of His Kingdom, “on earth as it is in Heaven”.