Ash Wednesday - Homily
Years ago, when I was working and dating, I began to go out with a very spiritual Catholic woman with whom I had been friends for a while. It was around Christmas time that we started talking more, and pursuing a potential relationship. From Christmas to Lent, it was really cool but still casual. But, then, on Ash Wednesday, I received a “Dear John” letter from her. As I read it, it started to dawn on me what had happened. . I thought to myself as I read the letter, “she’s probably been debating with herself what to give up for Lent… ‘let’s see: either chocolate or going out with Greg. Well, I really gotta have my Hershey’s kisses, so, bye Greg’. She gave me up for Lent!”
Today we begin the season of Lent with Ash Wednesday. It’s great to see so many people here this morning at Mass. I welcome all newcomers here, especially those who are here for the first time. Just so you know, we have Mass here every morning at 8:30 throughout the year.
We might ask, ‘what is the point of all this’? What is the point of receiving ashes? Why do we change to the color purple after using green? What is the point of giving up one thing? What is the point of fasting during these forty days? We might look at the Cross and ask, what is the point of that?
The specific answer is that we imitate Jesus’s fast of forty days in the desert, as he prepared for his Passion, Death, and Resurrection. And yes, the ashes and purple remind us it’s about penance, and moving away from sin and toward God. But, the general answer is that it’s all about love. We make small and big sacrifices during this holy season to imitate the love of Jesus. He is the example of love because he sacrificed his whole life for us. He showed us the greatest example of sacrifice the world has ever seen. Love is sacrifice.
There are many people here today who know what real love is. They have been living sacrificial love for many years as parents and grandparents. They know that love requires a giving of self to the other. They know that it means to make small and large sacrifices for their children. Sometimes it means waking up in the middle of the night to change a diaper when you’d rather sleep. It means denying yourself. Love is sacrifice.
Christ gives us the ultimate example by giving all of himself to us on the Cross. When we celebrate come to Mass, we remember his sacrifice. We all come here this morning to receive ashes. We gotta have our ashes! But, Jesus doesn’t say that whoever receives the ashes will live forever. He says whoever receives the bread of life will live forever. The Eucharist is the bread of life. When we eat his flesh and drink his blood, Christ remains in us and us in him. He continues to give his body and blood for us. He continues to give us his love.
As we receive this Eucharist this morning, let us be open to the grace of this sacrament so that we might imitate his love. May we approach this holy season of Lent with an openness to growing in sacrificial love. Let us imitate Christ who gave himself for us by giving ourselves to him and to others. Let us give our lives to Him as he gave his life for us. Let us say to him as he says to us, “this is my body…given up for you”.