My dear Fathers, Sisters and Brothers,
Peace and Grace of Jesus!
We are set to begin our Lenten journey on Ash Wednesday, 2, March 2022. Through the words of Prophet Joel, we hear an invitation that comes from the heart of God: “Return to me with all your heart” (Joel 2:12). It is a call to undertake a journey of return to God who waits with open arms. Like the prodigal son who wandered away from home, lost the road and ended up with empty hands and unhappy heart, we need to re-find the road back home, we have to come out of our illusions that blind us: unhealthy attachments, the snares of our sins, the false security of worldliness, etc.
It is a call to present our spiritual infirmities to the Lord. Like the leper who threw himself at the feet of Jesus – we present our wounds to him; our deep seated vices, our paralyzing fears – all of which we cannot heal on our own. We need the physician who alone can set us free, and heal our heart. The Lord says, come to me “with all your heart”. It involves my whole life, my entire being. Lent is not merely a pious activity undertaken for a few weeks of ritual obligation. This is the time when, through prayer, fast and kind acts, we ask ourselves seriously – where is my journey leading me to? Where is my ‘heart’ directed to? The gospel answers, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be” (Mt. 6:21) Therefore, we are called, “not store up treasure here on earth…store up treasure with God” (19, 20). It is the time, therefore, to re-fix our hearts on the concerns of God rather than on our own. We are reminded, “this world in its present form is passing away” (I Cor 7:31).
Our focus on earthly treasure will wear our heart out; and our focus on God’s priorities will free our heart from the constriction caused by duplicity and falsehood in our lives. “Our return journey to God is possible only because he first journeyed to us” (Pope Francis). Lent is the time to remind ourselves that for our sake God lowered himself, He came down to meet us, He embraced our sin, touched our sin, He became sin – “For our sake God made him to be sin” (II Cor 5:21). That is, He is there…ready…to accompany us on our journey…and in that to be ‘reconciled’ through ‘repentance’. It is a call for accepting the gratuitous invitation for restoring relationship with God and with each other.
In the liturgy of Ash Wednesday, we receive the ashes on our forehead. It is to remind ourselves that our return to God is not an ascent, but a humble descent in love; it is about becoming little in order to serve. Holy Father Pope Francis, in his message for Lent 2022 says, “Lent is a favourable time for personal and community renewal”; and adds apostle Paul’s exhortation to the Galatians “Let us not grow tired of doing good…” (6:9-10) It is opportune time to pray without becoming weary” (Lk 18:1), to give – not reluctantly as if compelled – but cheerfully (II Cor (:7-10) and persevere in holiness, one step at a time with “true heart”… without wavering, for God never tires of forgiving, He is ever faithful
(cf. Hb.10); only He can give us what we are in need of. He comes so close to us in our weakness and in times of fear. Let us, then, journey to the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace (cf. Hb. 4:16). May the virgin Mary, the perfect model of patient endurance obtain for us the gift of perseverance, so that this season of conversion may bring forth manifold fruits for our faith life.