Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Feb. 10, 2016: Ash Wednesday

Feb. 10, 2016: Ash Wednesday

There is one question that many folks will be asking each other today, “What are your plans for Lent?” A plan implies that we’re going to take necessary steps to follow through to achieve a goal. Our goal for Lent should be to make a lasting change in us. It’s utterly amazing that God whom heavens cannot contain chooses to dwell in our weak and frail body and soul. What preparation do we make to invite Him in? Should we simply focus on externals, such as ashes on our forehead, so that we appear to be changed?  We all admit that we don’t like change. We are at home with our habits, our routines and lifestyle. We protect them and resist the new and different. We convince ourselves that we are just fine, for we know of others who are in worse shape. After all, we have gone this far in life and have managed, so why bother to change now?

How do we change our hearts to honor God? The church suggests the following three approaches: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Prayer is our way of communicating with God. In our communal prayer, the mass being the most important, we are united in our praise and thanksgiving to the Father for the gift of his Son who strengthens us in the Eucharist.  In our private prayer, we have the opportunity to converse with God about our daily lives. We turn to Him believing that He hears us, trusting that He will answer us, and believing that He knows what we need even before we ask.

Fasting from food and comfort help us to purify our body and soul. We need to keep in mind that God does not need the self-imposed suffering we undergo, but we need to become detached from the things we would want outside of God. The purpose of our spiritual suffering is to unmask the lies we try to live by and to open our soul to the Father so that, together with Jesus, we may receive everything from him. Sin turns us inward, makes us live on the surface of ourselves, and separates us from others. Through fasting we become more attuned to what God wants for us.

Almsgiving is a way for us to assist those in need and, at the same time, an exercise in self-denial to free us from attachment to worldly goods. Pope Benedict XVI said that through almsgiving, we train ourselves spiritually, because it helps us to overcome constant temptation, teaching us to respond to our neighbor’s needs and to share with others whatever we possess through divine goodness. It also helps us to recognize Jesus in the poor.

Lent is the invitation to re-establish our friendship with God. Thus, the most perfect mortification is an act of love to God that takes us out of ourselves, transporting us into the love of the Beloved. One suggestion for your Lenten practice is to pick something different each week--do certain prayer one week or do certain fasting one week--instead of trying to stick with one thing the entire 40 days. In this way, we will begin to see small changes each week during the 6 weeks of Lent. May we use this time to look within ourselves and to grow in our relationship with the Lord.
-Fr. Paul Yi