Ash Wednesday (March 1, 2017)

As we are reminded every Ash Wednesday: “Now is the acceptable time! Now is the day of salvation! Do not receive the grace of God in vain. Return to me (your God) with your whole heart.” That’s our Lenten invitation: “Be reconciled to God” as completely as we can.

The ashes that will be placed on our forehead in the sign of the cross are a visible reminder of our need for the saving grace of Jesus’ death and rising. Our mortality and our sinfulness make it necessary for us to turn ourselves again and again to the presence of our God so that our whole heart can be eventually taken up by his gracious love for us.

The prophet Joel echoes our God’s earliest revelation of his name to Moses: “The Lord, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment.” Our gracious God is calling us to come closer to him during this Lent. St. Paul reminds us of the greatest motivation for responding with our whole being: “For our sakes (yours and mine), God made (Jesus) who did not know sin to be sin, so that in him we might become the very holiness of God.” Imagine: that we might become the very holiness of God.

Once again this Lent we are invited to turn to our God and receive his gracious love. We should look carefully into our hearts in order to find some very practical ways to use this sacred season to open our hearts even more to receive the very holiness of our God.

In our Lenten prayer, may each of us recognize the ways we still need to turn ourselves more to the Lord, and then take hold of the grace the Lord will give us to make these turnings.

May our God be praised by our efforts to live by his gracious love this Lent!

Rev. Michael S. Murray, OSFS, is the Executive Director of the De Sales Spirituality Center.