ASH WEDNESDAY

by Fr. James DiLuzio C.S.P.

 

 

Ash Wednesday is the second most popular church day throughout the year–second only to Christmas. “Why?”   Because this day, these rituals expose what everyone knows yet tries to avoid or pretends to forget: Death is inevitable.  Death comes for all — no matter our faith, our politics, our ethnicity or culture. Death reminds us of our common humanity.

 

Ultimately, acknowledging DEATH is the FREEDOM to put our lives, our worries, our anxieties, our prejudices, our fears into proper perspective. To live our lives well, with dignity, morality and charity, we need to be reminded of DEATH. Yes, we need to be conscious of DEATH to be more fully alive.

 

In its opposition to LIFE, to joyful existence, to loving fully, SIN is also death. It is as universally ubiquitous as death — no matter our faith, our politics, our ethnicity or culture, SIN is in evidence. And thus, SIN ALSO reminds us of our common humanity.

 

Acknowledging SIN is also freedom.  When we admit, we are wrong we free ourselves from pride, from having to make excuses, from pretending we’re perfect when we know we are not. Sin exposes our delusions that we are above and beyond the common folk, that we are somehow superior specimens in contrast took our competitors, our classmates, our friends—or, dare we acknowledge, the many ways we may be better than some of our family members. Yes, sin makes evident we are more like everybody else – a truth we don’t often like to admit.

 

Yet, we know that Confessing our sins Is Freedom. The truth we all are sinners frees us from oppressive guilts and insecurities that chip away at our self-esteem– no matter the pride or false bravado we project to others. Identifying our sins frees us from the burdens of hypocrisies, and offers HOPE for change, for growth, for transformation.  Blessed are the meek and humble, indeed, for when we get honest, we get humble and it is humility that strengthens our belief in the God of Jesus Christ, that His Holy Spirit is within us and present and at work in our world.

 

That is the reason we arrived here today.  Drawn to the Church, to renew our commitment to Catholic Christianity in part for the ways it acknowledges the power of signs and symbols.  So, we put ashes on our foreheads, publicly witnessing to THESE FACTS:

1.                 Death is reality

2.                We are sinners,

3.                And that all are dependent on the MERCY OF GOD in whom we live and move and have our being.

 

In addition to these ashes on our foreheads, we return to the Mass which includes the Confession of sin and the Hope and Realities of the WORD and EUCHARIST.  We return to fortify our relationship with Jesus as our Christ and to improve our relationship with others.   That is perfect freedom. This is HOPE INCARNATE.

 

Our RECOMMITMENT TO THESE TRUTHS of OUR Christian Faith invite people of all religions to consider and articulate how their respective faiths and lives witness to a Merciful God.  When this happens, we shed light on to the same realities that death exposes: our common humanity and the need for God.

 

If asked today by others ” Why are wearing ashes on your forehead?” answer plainly and with confidence:  “there’s value in admitting our wrongs and believing in the Loving and Merciful God Jesus revealed.”  This can –and should — and WILL– make a difference. It will change the ways we see ourselves and the ways we treat others daily. This entire Lenten season strives to imprint this truth on our bodies and souls: LORD, JESUS CHRIST, SON OF THE LIVING GOD, HAVE MERCY ON US SINNERS. Making this our continual prayer Is our Freedom and our Hope.

 

Here’s an example of the difference CHRISTIAN Faith can make in our lives:

 

I invite you to imagine you are back in grade school– 3rd or 4th grades– you are 8, 9 or 10. You’ve had a bad day and, on that day, your faith was no consolation to you.  You forgot Jesus was with you, that you could turn to GOD for consolation.  So instead, you turned to another kid on the playground, the one with a dirty shirt, who rarely combed his or her hair, and you picked on him. You teased her unmercifully. Name calling, ethnic slurs and brutality ensue and you left the playground angrier than before.

 

On arriving home, your parent or guardian asked “What was the matter?” You tell what you did. Now that parent or guardian may or may not have been present to Jesus at that moment. If not, if he/she forgot that we are all sinners AND temples of the Holy Spirit equally. So, that parent or guardian screamed, “Go to your room and get out of my sight. I’m disgusted with you.”   And, if that was their response, in retrospect, we can forgive them for it.  After all, we were not in touch with Christ ourselves on that day.  But if they were –ah what a difference!

 

If in a more prayerful mood, our parent or guardian would ask what caused us to act that way.  They would have reminded us that we all make bad choices, hurt ourselves and others but in faith we can turn to God whose mercy inspires us to admit our wrongs and do something about them.   They may have invited us to pray over what happened and discuss how we could put things right.  They would have invited us to look at the choices before us – we could perpetuate the hurt, the guilt, or make changes for the better.  Perhaps the love and mercy they showed us motivated us to phone that other kid and say we were sorry and say that we wanted to make it up to him.  Perhaps we went to his or her house and apologized in person, inviting them to play a game with us or we offered to help with homework.  If that was in your childhood experiences, that would have been an experience of GOD.

 

If this or something like it happened to you as a young person, I am here to assure you that that day was one of the best days of your young life. If it didn’t happen, if your parent or guardian condemned you and did not help you so something about it, if you kept your wrongdoing to yourself and perpetuated it because you felt guilty and ashamed, if you indulged your anger even further, FEAR NOT. For today, with Ashes on your forehead, you can change what you would do TODAY—you can act differently NOW—with anyone you may have hurt or who has hurt you.  You can appropriate the gifts of your Confirmation now: the courage to speak the truth with mercy, with patience and kindness for yourselves and for others because we are all going to die. You can DIE to the Past and be present to God in Jesus Christ right NOW and let God’s tender mercy fill you with grace.  That is the Freedom of Ash Wednesday; the Courage of Ash Wednesday; the Truth of Ash Wednesday and what this season of LENT encourages us to embrace.

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On the Tragedy in Orlando, FL

There appears to be significant self-loathing in the emerging portrait of the murderer at the gay-oriented Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL.  The best thing religious leaders can do for their constit…

Source: On the Tragedy in Orlando, FL

On the Tragedy in Orlando, FL

There appears to be significant self-loathing in the emerging portrait of the murderer at the gay-oriented Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL.  The best thing religious leaders can do for their constituents is to promote love of self– the self-acceptance and full dignity of being a unique human being, that includes our ethnicity, physical traits and sexual orientation. Love, compassion and empathy toward others begins here.  There is no other healthy foundation for faith.

I invite people of ALL Faiths to persevere in spreading this message that we are, indeed, children of a magnanimous, benevolent God whose love is unconditional, who delights in diversity and the many colors and shapes and sizes of every living creature on the face of the earth. Condolences to all the bereaved. Together may we cultivate Hope together.

My LukeLive! ministry includes a central segment on the importance of love and self-acceptance.  This meditation comes right after I’ve invited listeners to reflect on the day of their birth.  You can listen to it here:

I invite you to support my ministry by downloading this and other segments, or the entire album of Luke Live! Highlights at

http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/revjamesmdiluziocsp

For more in this conversation on the tragedy at the Pulse club, read this blog post from Bishop Robert Lynch of Saint Petersburg, FL.  This is the BEST statement from a Catholic Bishop regarding the murder of gay men, lesbians and trans-gender:  Please read: http://bishopsblog.dosp.org/?p=6644

Here’s an appropriate image for this week:

Pala Baglione, Borghese Deposition or The Entombment – Bing images

Gut Response to Republican Debate Sept. 16, 2015

I watched ALL of the Republican debate on CNN.  Here’s my gut response:  Jeb Bush comes across as the most humane (and yes, he had more energy); John Kasich quite sensible.  The rest?  Ugh.  I take particular umbrage with Marco Rubio.  Could anyone be more myopic? His tirade against environmental concern is so extreme.  Is there no middle ground with him?  If some jobs are lost, wouldn’t more jobs be gained in the new technologies?  Has he no concern for clean air and water?  He likes to drink water.  God help him.

Trump was a bit more cordial than the last time.  He is so very entertaining.
Carly Fiorina comes across as a solid hawk, perhaps even more than most of the men.  Do you think she overdid it to show that she is a strong person?  I don’t know.  But I applaud her statements not to fund Planned Parenthood (NO reason tax dollars should support abortions not only because it’s a great moral issue but also because the tax paying public is so divided on the issue.  PP will have no problem getting funds from the private sector anyway) and I appreciated her passion against legalized marijuana as a gateway drug. For all that, I think all of the candidates want to take funding away from  PP.
Sadly Jeb didn’t get to summarize his tax plan, although Carson and others did.  Having read Jeb’s in the NYTIMES, it definitely seems reasonable.  Carson’s tithing (10 %) across the board for everyone is intriguing, but he’s not a viable candidate and the tithing thing doesn’t seem practical on some levels, although it would totally simplify everything. Plus it’s biblical!
I wish these debates would focus more on the issues than the usual political rants and idealistic speeches.  The moderators don’t ask penetrating questions!  E.g. on the hot issue of the Iran deal:  during the considerable number of sanction years, Iran has built up considerable uranium deposits and, without any Western communication , sources say it would be ready to build a bomb in the next three months.  So what good did the strict sanctions do?  They only isolated a sick and diseased country and allowed its leaders to do what they wanted while the common people suffered there.  Why would no one state the obvious here? Sadly, central points like these are never brought up in most debates.  At least some of the potential candidates did state the obvious:  with or without this agreement the USA can bomb Iran any time it likes.  And so can Israel for that matter. So what is the big deal here?  In the past, some diplomacy with an enemy has had greater potential than none at all even when war became inevitable. And as Kasich repeatedly stated, we gain more support from Europe when we at least try the diplomatic way first.
Have a wonderful day.  You deserve it!