Homily for Ash Wednesday – Fr. Alan Gilmore

  ASH WEDNESDAY     +                                      
(Fr Alan)      
Ash Wednesday. Already!, and in some places the Christmas decorations are still around! “Remember, that you are dust and into dust you shall return”. Sobering words, and right after Mardi Gras! The Church gives us this Season of Lent – to prepare ourselves by means of prayer  and fasting to more deeply understand, and celebrate, the great mysteries of the passion and death of the Lord – and experience more deeply, the JOY of his Resurrection. It is a special time for us to create greater openness to the meaning of the Lord’s life and  glorious Resurrection and how this should inspire and guide our life in this world, a world in which so many are engrossed in the material at the expense of their immortal souls.
Recently, I came across a cardboard box that had contained some dried fruit. Printed on the box, in rather large letters was the word “Semi-perishable!”  That got me to thinking. All of God creatures are either perishable or imperishable, with one exception: human beings!  Angels, as pure spirits are imperishable. Material creatures are all perishable, with the exception of Human beings – composed of matter (“dust”, as we are  graphically reminded today by the ashes we receive); matter and an immortal spirit. Remember those beautiful words from the Preface for the Mass for the dead: “With our death, our life is changed, not ended”. Also, the words of St Paul (2 Cor) “When this earthly dwelling turns to dust an eternal dwelling place is made for us in heaven”.Death is a part of the reality of life which
is why our lives are so important in the shaping of the manner in which we move into death. We die as the person we have become – shaped by our decisions, our choices for, or the rejection, of God.
The three Readings for today speak directly – to us. Through the Prophet Joel we can hear God pleading with us to come back to him. We are to change our hearts – so that we will seek what has real value in this mortal life.  The second reading reminds us – to be reconciled to God.  As a confessor, when the penitent mentions their ‘last’ confession, I think that they mean – their ‘most recent confession’ – and that this might be their last confession! And so with Lent! This may be our last Lent! Each year, it is just that for many! We might look at it that way. It is  better to be safe than sorry.  (Eternity, is a long ‘time’ to be sorry!)
In the Gospel from Matthew, Jesus reminds us of what is expected of us — possible now through his Spirit. We might stop fooling ourselves about the quality of our present service of the Lord and his people, his ‘Body’. Saint John Henry Newman reminds us that no matter how ‘holy’ we think we are, or may be, we all have “100’s of hidden sins”! Perhaps this Lent can help us replace at least some of them with something much more in keeping with our present ‘semi-perishable’ state. As Jesus is now , so shall all the saints be with him in Heaven forever. Amen

Fr Alan
(Joel 2:12-18, 2 Cor 5:20-16-18, Matt 6:1-6,16-18)