Ash Wednesday, March 1, 2017
The Most Rev. Edward M. Rice
March 1, 2017, Springfield, MO
This might sound odd, but I love everything about Lent! I love the drama of ashes on Ash Wednesday and then seeing people leave Mass with smudges on their foreheads. I love the classic songs of Lent like, “Lord, who throughout these 40 days,” “Forty days and 40 nights,” or “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” The melodies of these hymns are so haunting!
I love the liturgies of Lent. There is a refreshing simplicity to them that culminates in the beautiful liturgies of Holy Week. Is there anything more touching than to see the washing of feet on Holy Thursday? Is there anything more sentimental than when we reverence or kiss the cross on Good Friday? … And the smell of lilies on Easter Sunday. … I love Lent.
I also love the food of Lent, which may sound odd because we must abstain from meat on Fridays and we usually give up things like chocolate or sweets. But there is nothing better than a nice hot bowl of tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich. Is there anything better than a nice piece of fried cod? Baked cod is healthy but we all know that fried is better, so please enjoy your parish fish fry in your town, will you? Throw in some macaroni and cheese and some potato pancakes and I’m set for the next 40 days.
Now, what about you?
While you may have never thought about your “love” for Lent, there is a more important question that needs to be asked: Do you need Lent? And to that question I respond by saying, “Absolutely. I need Lent.”
I need Lent because I am not as good as I should be. Now, I’m pretty good, and I try to be consistently good, but I have my moments, just as does anyone. I have those moments when I fail to perform that act of kindness right in front of me. There are times when I feel like I’ve done enough, so my first thought is, “let someone else do it.” I acknowledge that there are times when I become so selfish and my world becomes so small that I am not as good as I could be. I need Lent, not because I’m a bad person, but because at times, I’m not good enough. As we say at the beginning of Mass, I need to repent for “what I have done and what I have failed to do.” How about you?
So, I take the ashes of Ash Wednesday as a sign of my desire to be better: as a sign that I want to offer that kind word; as a sign that I want to commit that random act of kindness; as a sign that I want to stand up for what is right, and intentionally walk this 40-day journey with Christ.
I love Lent. But more importantly, I recognize that I need Lent. What about you?