February 21, 2020

Worship and Evangelization Outreach / Fr. Patrick Beidelman

Gospel calls us to repentance and renewal during Lent

Fr. Patrick BeidelmanNext week, we will celebrate Ash Wednesday on Feb. 26 and begin the great season of Lent.

As we begin the Lenten season, we do several things that are familiar. The vestments that the priests and deacons wear is the penitential color of violet. We sing songs about God’s mercy and about our need for forgiveness. Almsgiving, prayer and fasting will be the tools of our trade these next few weeks. And on Ash Wednesday, we receive ashes, remembering that some things are temporary and other things are eternal. We make our commitments to be better disciples … things we give up and things we pledge to do.

We know the routine, and it seems to me that there’s a part of us—a part deep within—that is grateful for it, for this routine, which calls us back to the core of we are. It helps us to open our hearts wider and to remember and give thanks more consistently and completely for the love of the God who does not abandon us.

In our tradition, the beginning of these 40 days of penance is marked with the austere symbol of ashes. The use of ashes is from an ancient practice which sinners who converted submitted themselves to doing significant acts of penance.

The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy reminds us: “The act of putting on ashes symbolizes fragility and mortality, and the need to be redeemed by the mercy of God. Far from being a merely external act, the Church has retained the use of ashes to symbolize that attitude of internal penance to which all the baptized are called during Lent” (# 125). Our goal is conversion and to be renewed in our commitment to Christ this Easter.

The sacrifices of Ash Wednesday and this Lenten season allow us to intensify our focus on the Lord Jesus. However, this deepening of our mindfulness of Christ and of God’s people is not a wish that things will get better. In fact, our returning to the Lord and our preparation for our recommitment to him at the great celebration of Easter is a sure and certain hope for you and me to grow in our friendship with Jesus. For the Lord, who sees and knows what is really within us, what we really hope for, will be there to comfort and guide, console and heal, commission and strengthen.

Our righteous deeds not only show our devotion to and our desire to please the Lord, but they also help to advance the kingdom of justice, love and peace that Jesus came to establish. So, we put our faith in action this Lenten season, using the familiar disciplines of prayer, fasting and charity, not only for ourselves but also so that Christ can work through us for the good of others and for his greater glory in the world today.

Because of that, the call of the Gospel challenges us to begin and to continue our efforts for repentance and renewal this Lenten season, not for praise and reward here and now, but rather so that God can continue to form us and help others to know, love and serve him more faithfully through the family of the Church.

As we evangelize others with our commitment to purity in body, mind and spirit and as we employ the tools of our trade in our stepping back into this season of joyful repentance, let us be guided by the example of Jesus our brother and have confidence: no matter what struggles lie ahead and no matter what is in our past. Our future is with God.

(Father Patrick Beidelman is executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Worship and Evangelization.)

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