Homily for Ash Wednesday (Year B)
February 14, 2018
Holy Trinity, Tabor – 6:00 PM
St. Francis of Assisi, Fisher – 7:30 PM
Focus: It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
Function: Live Lent intentionally.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
There’ll be ashes and fasting
no chocolate nor candy
this Valentine’s Daaaaaaay!
Maybe I should stop before I’m thrown out…
After all, we’ve been fasting all day. No meat. We’re hungry. It’s cold and dark outside. It’s been a long day.
We’re all a little cranky.
This isn’t the time to be messing around. Let’s get on with it…Mass is going to take long enough since we all have to come forward twice…
Repent and believe in the Gospel.
Remember that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.
It is certainly not the most wonderful time of the year. It’s a time of drudgery, a time of penance, a time where we wallow in our guilt, or at least pretend to wallow in our guilt. We take up arbitrary penances for the sake of punishing ourselves for no apparent reason other than it’s what we do. A little bit of Catholic guilt is supposed to be good for the soul.
We watch as our co-workers eat their juicy cheeseburgers and then listen as they taunt us for our outdated traditions.
Penance services abound and the priests are cranky because we’ll drive 20 minutes in the cold, dark night to offer our 8th penance service of the week and two people will show up.
The readings are woeful as they urge us to be reconciled to God, to turn away from our sins, to rend our hearts with repentance to such a degree that they are torn open and new spiritual muscle grows.
It’s Lent. The most wonderful time of the year…
Uh-huh. I don’t know about that.
It’s a time, alright, but what type of time is it? Our second reading gives us a clue:
Behold, now is a very acceptable time. Behold, now is the day of salvation.
The day of salvation…the day of salvation will be a wonderful time.
The day of salvation when there will be no more suffering, no more pain, where we will experience new life and live it to the full. And, of course, the Good News of the Gospel is that we can begin to live this new life here and now. Jesus promises us this new life here and now. The Kingdom is among us.
Behold, now is a very acceptable time! Behold, now is the day of salvation!
Behold, now is the time to begin anew. Now is the time of conversion, the time for new life, for new life in this life, for a life lived to the full, a resurrection experience in midst of the winter of life.
Now is the time of opportunity, the time of struggle, yes, but also a time of great growth that comes in the midst of the struggle. As they say, no pain, no gain…
Behold, now is a very acceptable time. Now is the day of salvation!
Now is the time to become who you were meant to be. Now is the time for breaking out of the humdrum and ho-hum of everyday life.
Now is the time to end the endless cycle of cynicism and mediocrity and lukewarm Christianity and to begin to live our faith, our life, our love of God and neighbor with boldness and with zeal. Now is the time to become fully alive in Christ. Now is the time for cold hearts to be rent open and set ablaze with Divine love.
Behold, now is a very acceptable time! Now is the day of salvation!
It’s the most wonderful time of the year if we seize it. It’s the most wonderful time of the year if we make the most of it.
It can indeed be the most wonderful time of the year if we make this Lent different from the Lents of the past…if we take up our Crosses daily and follow after him…if we direct all of our prayer, fasting, and almsgiving toward rending our hearts of the vices that plague them and replacing those vices with the opposing virtues.
What if we directed our Lenten sacrifices, our prayer, our fasting, and our almsgiving…what if we directed them toward tearing open our hardened hearts so that they could be emptied of pride or greed or anger or lust or sloth or gluttony or envy or…?
What if we emptied our hearts of these vices and sins and then filled them, filled them with the virtues of humility or generosity or patience or chastity or diligence or temperance or gratitude or…? What if we did that?
What if our penances were directed toward a purpose?
What if we actually expected to grow this Lent…to change this Lent?
What if we actually tried to seize this acceptable time, this day of salvation, this wonderful time of the year?
How would your life be different? Would it be better? Would it be more…wonderful?
Where is Jesus inviting you to grow? Where is Jesus calling you from death to life?
Pray for the grace to grow in that area. Pray for it on your knees, daily on your knees imploring the God of all grace for the grace that you need to seize this acceptable time. Pray for the grace to return to confession if it’s been years. Pray for the grace to rend your heart – to experience true contrition for your sins. Pray for God to do within you what you cannot do for yourself.
St. Augustine offers this piece of wisdom: Do you want your prayer to fly to God? Then give it the wings of fasting and almsgiving.
Prayer gives God permission to do his part. Fasting and almsgiving is your part.
Pray and then fast.
Fasting builds spiritual muscle. We have one will. If you strengthen your will in one area, it will strengthen it in other areas where you struggle. Giving up desserts strengthens your will in the area of food, and that carries over into the areas of anger, drink, and sex among others. But you have direct it toward that virtue you are trying to grow in.
Pray, fast, and give alms. Almsgiving atones for sins. It returns to God from a grateful heart, and in turn it makes the heart more grateful. It focuses your heart on others – it stretches your heart so that it can be filled with the love of God.
Pray, fast, and give alms – direct all of those practices toward the pursuit of a virtue that will bring about the day of salvation, a virtue that will give you the freedom to live more fully and to love more deeply.
Don’t put off to next year what you can do this year. Don’t waste your time – your acceptable time.
Behold, now is the acceptable time. Behold, now is the day of salvation.
It is, indeed, the most wonderful time of the year.