Ash Wednesday | Weekly Lenten Reflection by Fr. Michael MacInnis, Director of Human Formation
Saint Bonaventure tells us that towards the end of his life Saint Francis of Assisi would tell the other friars: “Let us begin again, brothers, for up until now, we have done little or nothing.” Friar Thomas of Celano, another biographer of the Seraphic Saint, tells us that Francis “did not consider that he had already attained his goal, but tireless in pursuit of holy newness, he constantly hoped to begin again.”
Saint Francis, who bore the sacred wounds of Christ in his stigmata, reminds us that our conversion—turning toward God, growing in love for God and neighbor—is always calling us into a place of renewal.
My brothers and sisters, we begin again. The Church gives us Lent as a time of renewal to draw closer to the Lord, to begin again.
Lent is a 40-day season of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving that begins today Ash Wednesday and ends at sundown on Holy Thursday and is an opportunity of grace. It’s a period of preparation to celebrate the Lord’s Resurrection at Easter. During Lent, we seek the Lord in prayer by meditating on Sacred Scripture; we serve by giving alms; and we practice self-control through fasting. These practices and observances should lead to a true inner conversion of heart as we seek to follow Christ’s Will more faithfully, as we echo the mystery of Jesus’ time in the Desert. We recall the waters of baptism in which we were also baptized into Christ’s death, died to sin and evil, and began new life in Christ.
As we begin again in this sacred time we are invited into a deeper intimacy with God and a Godly awareness of our connectedness to all of humanity. Today we are signed with ashes on our foreheads as an external sign of an interior movement—a solemn reminder of our mortality and need for reconciliation with God. As we begin this penitential season today, we embrace prayer and fasting as signs of our desire and hunger to seek God. Prayer and fasting is a combination of sacrifice and petition leading to deeper communion with God through surrender, reliance and trust in the One who gives life.
This year our Holy Father is inviting us into solidarity with a common intention for the start of this Lenten Season: to be aware of the pain and suffering of our brothers and sisters in Ukraine and to beg the Lord, the Prince of Peace, for peace.
Pope Francis calls on all people, “believers and nonbelievers alike,” to pray and fast for peace today Ash Wednesday as we begin the season of Lent. “Jesus taught us that the diabolical senselessness of violence is answered with God's weapons, with prayer and fasting,” the Pope said. “I encourage believers in a special way to dedicate themselves intensely to prayer and fasting on this day.”
“It is a day to be close to the suffering of the Ukrainian people, to be aware that we are all brothers and sisters, and to implore God for an end to the war.”
Pope Francis also invited all men and women of goodwill not to forget the wars in other parts of the world, mentioning those in Yemen, Syria, and Ethiopia. The Holy Father implored: “I repeat: May weapons be silenced! God is with the peacemakers, not with those who use violence!”
As we begin our observance of Lent—40 days of spiritual preparation leading toward the joyous Resurrection on Easter Sunday—we have an incredible opportunity to move more deeply into the heart of God, to join in solidarity with the suffering, marginalized, and outcast through prayer and action.
Our observances will include prayer, fasting and almsgiving as well as what God puts on our heart. All of these practices, devotions and sacrifices need to bring us to a place that helps us to love and serve our God and our brothers and sisters more authentically. It’s a time to be aware of what blinds us and blocks us from the Divine flow of grace in our lives, so that our heart may be right-ordered toward God and our brothers and sisters.
May our sacrifice today make us holy and unite us to the suffering Body of Christ. May this time be a time of renewal leading us to freedom, peace, generosity of spirit and new life.
Our Lady, Queen of Peace, pray for us!More Lenten Reflections