Ash Wednesday Homily, 2022
St. James Cathedral

“We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Cor 5: 20)

At the beginning of this penitential season of Lent the Church begins her journey ‘for the ascent to the holy mountain of Easter.’ (Ceremonial of Bishops, Lent) As with every journey, it is important to know our final destination in order to properly prepare and provision.

Knowing our final destination is God, for all eternity, we keep the world and all of its attractions in proper perspective, namely God’s perspective. Faith also informs us that God is our Origin, our Creator, who in love sustains us through this earthly pilgrimage to our eternal Easter. Lent calls us to our ‘senses’ to humbly acknowledge where we have lost our way, and thus our need to be reconciled to God. As we journey to Easter we to look to Christ our Light, to acknowledge our sins, to do penance, and be renewed through the mercy of God.

At the beginning of our Lenten journey, we stand before God, humbly aware of our sins and the damage they cause in our relationship with God, each other, and in all of God’s creation. The ashes we receive today recall the original Adam, whom God created from the dust of the earth and blew into his nostrils the breath of life. (Genesis 2:7) As Adam, we stand before God today, mindful of his gift of life, love and salvation, as well as the ways we have failed to live fully in that life and love. We recall that ‘we are dust, and to dust we shall return.’ This is a proper perspective of who we are and who God IS.

Recall Job, who ‘sat among the ashes.’ (Job 2:8) We know he was a righteous man ‘who feared God and avoided evil.’ (Job 1:1) The ashes for Job initially represented a moment of lament in the face of great loss. It was a time when his own faith in God was tested and tempered. It was a time of intense ‘conversation’ with God to learn how far God’s ways are above our own, and that “upon the earth there is none like him,” (Job 41:25) As a result, Job gained a proper perspective, that God alone is God, and as he sat among the ashes, his motives were purified, moving beyond grief to repentance before God.

Today, as we are marked with ashes in the sign of the cross, the sign of our salvation, we do well to hear the question God posed to Adam after his sin: “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9) Where are you on this earthly pilgrimage? On this spiritual journey to Easter?

We do well to sit alone with God, stripped of all possessions, and allow God to show us what he sees. The words of St. Paul tell us how to do this. “On behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Cor 5:20)

As we sit alone with Jesus, mindful of our sinfulness, of our unworthiness, it is good to know that his gaze is full of love. (see Mark 10:21) His message to us now is his Easter message: “Do not be afraid.” “Your sins are forgiven.” “Come, follow me.”

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