As we observe Ash Wednesday this week we enter into another Lenten period in our lives. During the following forty days we prepare through prayer and sacrifice for the glorious feast of Easter. Last year as we approached Ash Wednesday Pope Francis wrote: "Lent is a new beginning, a path leading to the certain goal of Easter, Christ's victory over death. This season urgently calls us to conversion. Lent is the favorable season for renewing our encounter with Christ who lives in his Word, in the sacraments and in our neighbor. Once again Lent come to make its prophetic appeal to remind us that it is possible to create something new within ourselves and around us. At the basis of everything is the Word of God which during this season we are invited to hear and ponder more deeply. Let us find inspiration in God’s Word, for it is a key to understanding what we need to do in order to attain true happiness and eternal life. It exhorts us to true conversion. Let us not waste this season of Lent, so favorable a time for conversion."
Pope Francis, quoting from the Old Testament prophet Joel says: "return to me with all your heart." With its invitation to conversion, Lent comes providentially to awaken us, to rouse us from our sleep, from the risk of moving forward by doing nothing. The exhortation which the Lord addresses to us through the prophet Joel is strong and clear. Why must we return to God? Because something is not right in us, not right in society, not right in the Church, and we need to change and give it a new direction. And this is called needing to convert.
The Pope points our that Lent reminds us that it is possible to create something new within ourselves and around us simply because God is faithful, always faithful, for God cannot deny himself. God continues to be rich in goodness and mercy and God is always ready to forgive and start afresh. With this filial confidence, the Pope says let us set out on the journey.
And so the Lenten journey begins on Ash Wednesday with the sign of the cross on our foreheads as a reminder to all that this day begins a special time in our lives, a time to offer prayers, to sacrifice in some way and to make an extra effort to walk closely in the footsteps of the Lord.
Fr John R. Mulvehill