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Doctrines & Morals
 
 
 
Homilies/Reflections

Broken heart
By FR JULIUS OLAITAN

ASH WEDNESDAY

 

Let your heart be broken…

 

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, welcome to the Season of Lent.  This is a season that brings to focus more than any other, the mercy, forgiving and healing love of God.  The season of Lent spans between Ash Wednesday and Holy Saturday—a period of 40 days (Latin-Quadragesima). Lent is a time of fasting, penance, prayer, almsgiving, preparation for, or recollection of baptism, and preparation for the celebration of Easter. Catechumens are therefore taken through the rites of initiation during this period.  For those who are already baptised, the Season is that of renewal of their baptismal promises, which is done at the Easter vigil celebration, so the need for the period of preparation as well.

 

Ash Wednesday, is the first day of Lent. On this day ashes from palms of previous Palm Sunday are placed on the foreheads of the faithful to remind them of death, of the sorrow they should feel for their sins, and of the necessity of changing their lives. This practice, dates from the early Middle Ages. The words of God to Adam in the Bible are often used in the ceremony: “You are dust and to dust shall you return.” Or “Repent and believe the goodnews.”

 

First reading (Joel 2: 12-18)

At the time when a swarm of locusts had made all the fields into barren deserts in a few hours, which meant famine, the Prophet and the people understood that this was the punishment deserved for unfaithfulness to God. Penance is therefore a ready acceptance of punishment which includes a plea for forgiveness.  The Prophet Joel appeals, “Return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, with mourning.”  Here is an appeal from God himself to his people.  Just like any father who is not willing to punish, he calls us to return home to him.  God knows we are human and that our weakness could sometimes be a hindrance to our return to ask for forgiveness. He is not even waiting that we come, he is the one appealing. Shall we take God’s mercy for granted? There is the need to use the sacrament of reconciliation as a springboard back to holiness.  God is not tired of forgiving you, why are you tired of going to confession.  It is possible to say, ‘but I have confessed this same sin over and again’, God wants you to make effort at not returning to sin. 

Joel also invites us “Tear your heart and not your garments.”  Do we feel sorrow for our sins, for deserting the Lord?  Joel reminds us that it is not really the externals that matter.  It is the heart.  We should focus more on the internal transformation. 

 

Gospel (Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-18)

Matthew  tells us that we do not need to parade our good deeds before all, or we will already be earning our reward in the sight of men. We need to do our good deeds discretely.  God who sees all that is done in secret, will reward us for these.

 

The observance of Lent should include, “alms-giving.”  In this the Lord expects us to look kindly on our fellow men and give to those who are less privileged. It is not just giving money to people on the street.  It includes empowering people to be able to make money themselves.  Those who are in the position to do so, should provide jobs for others.  We should stop impoverishing our people.  All embezzlements must stop. The politicians should stop playing pranks with our resources.  This is the real way to give alms to the poor.

 

We also need to “pray.”  Our attendance at Mass, stations of the cross, retreats and personal and family prayers are important during this period. Let us pray for our nation. This nation needs divine intervention in a more drastic way.  It will take our collective efforts in prayer and good works to achieve this.

 

We need to “fast.”  It is not just going without food, but also giving that which is saved to those who do not have something to live on. 

 

Paul therefore appeals to us in the second reading (2Corrinthians 5:20-6:2).  “It is as if God is appealing through us, and the appeal we make in Christ name is : be reconciled to God.  It is for our sake that God made the sinless one into sin, so that we in turn might become the goodness of God.  So do not neglect the grace of God that you have received.  Now is the favourable time; this is the day of salvation.” The dust that is scattered on your forehead today is a reminder of the fact that, ‘you are dust and unto dust shall you return.’ It is a reminder of death and burial, a reminder of God’s judgement. A reminder of the nothingness of the things we struggle to amass here on earth.

 

Let us pray: Lord grant us your mercy and grant us your healing. Amen. May the Almighty God bless you, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

 
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