Homily for Ash Wednesday 2016 (Really a “Sermon”)

ASH WEDNESDAY 2016

Fr. James DiLuzio C.S.P.

Is there anyone, who can tell us what Ash Wednesday is all about?

Well, it’s about Death.  Nothing brings us down to earth as does the reality of death. It is one of the most essential common human denominators.  Rich or poor, good or evil, death is in store for everyone.  It puts every one’s life in perspective.  Think about our anxieties over our bank accounts and levels of success. Death levels the playing field.

Jesus invites us to be liberated by death. Coming down to earth, he shared in our common humanity and taught us that in life and death we must ground ourselves in our common dependence on God.  Through his passion and death, he delivered us from all of life’s illusions.  He keeps us mindful that trusting in God is the only way to die and therefore the only way to live.   For all of life is embossed in the pattern of Jesus: dying and rising, dying and rising: from evolution to the change of seasons and the stages of human life—we have to trust in this eternal pattern which, in turn, will strengthen our trust Christ is with us through it all.  Rooted in Christ, our Catholic faith insists that death is but a new birth to an ever expanding eternity in a communion of saints whose perfection continues to perfect itself in compassion for and solidarity with the lives in heaven and on earth.  Ash Wednesday invites us to live the same way.*

Ash Wednesday is also about sin; another form of death.  GRACE is at work in our willingness to acknowledge our sins.   This is part of the truth that sets us free.  To acknowledge our sin is to die to sin.  Confessing sin admits that we live in debt to God in whom we live and move and have our being and whose mercy and forgiveness alone continually restore us to life. In turn, this glorious Season of Lent reminds us that if we truly believe in God’s mercy and forgiveness, we are obliged to cultivate these same virtues toward others as much as toward ourselves.  Mercy offers hope and blesses those who give and those who take.  Just like Communion.

Today we willingly let ashes be smeared in the sign of the cross on our foreheads, as part of our effort to let this truth sink into our consciousness: Death is humbling, therefore death is good. Dedicating our days to prayer, alms giving and lives of restraint will keep us on guard against sin and fear, and deepen our trust in to live more fully now and life in the world to come. Amen.

And that’s what Ash Wednesday is all about, Charlie Brown.

*See how Christianity is in sync with Judaism by reading this passage from Isaiah 58: 6-7

“This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; . . . Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not tuning your own back on your own.”

And here is something similar in the Koran 4:17 : “As for those that have faith and do good works, We shall admit them to gardens watered by running streams, where, wedded to chaste spouses, they shall abide for ever. To a cool shade We shall admit them.”

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