“Nevertheless, the liturgy of Ash Wednesday is not focussed on the sinfulness of the penitent but on the mercy of God. The question of sinfulness is raised precisely because this is a day of mercy, and the just do not need a savior.” ~ Thomas Merton
Today we begin what many theologians have called our solemn fast, the Forty Days of Lent. Lent is a penitential season and rightly so since we are sinful people. However, the focus in Lent should not be on doom and gloom. We already have enough of that and Jesus never wanted His people to get weighed down by that. He knew that a focus on doom and gloom would keep His people down and distract them from the path to the Kingdom.
Without subtracting from our sinfulness and guilt, we should focus on the wondrous mercy of God and His forgiveness. If we focus upon that, we are less likely to wallow in our own sin and guilt. Yes, we need to recognize our fallen condition and attempt to rise above our sinfulness and guilt. However, we should not be so consumed by it that we fail to recognize that God wants to forgive and redeem us rather than to condemn and destroy us.
God loves us too much to cast us aside. He loves us too much to watch us wallow in sin and guilt. He loves us so much that He sent His Son to redeem us. That love came at quite a cost: the death of Jesus on the cross. But it was through that death and ultimate resurrection three days later that the pathway to our salvation became clear.
Lent, then, is a holy season. It is a time for us to reflect upon God’s merciful love and to determine what we will do to show the Lord that we are sorry for our sins and want to change. Our lives will not change overnight. It is only through constant work and small acts that we will stay on the path that leads to the Kingdom.
Some people give things up during Lent. Others add positive actions during Lent. Still others do both. Whatever you choose to do, do something. Fill your days with goodness. Avoid temptation. Seek the Lord’s forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation when you fail. And know that you are not alone. You are not the only person who sins. You are not the only person who needs God’s mercy and love. We all do. Welcome to the family.
FAITH ACTION: If you have not already done so, determine what you will do throughout the Season of Lent — prayer, good works, almsgiving, et cetera — to draw closer to our most merciful God.
Remember, Ash Wednesday is a Day of Fast and Abstinence