Paul T. Keil, February 22, 2023
Ash Wednesday, Year A
Peace be with you on this, our celebration of the Mass for Ash Wednesday, 2023. So, the first question that often arises for most of us, as we approach Ash Wednesday is, “What will I give up or possibly add to my daily routine this year for Lent?” Maybe we do an examination of our lives and come up with some bad habits we need to break, or we may get really serious and even decide and try to focus on an area of repeated sin in our lives. On the other hand, we may simply think of things like eating less, exercising more, or eliminating some food or drink we really like. Regardless, if those are the types of options you’ve been thinking about for the last few days – friends, you’ve been dwelling on the wrong question. The question we often fail to ask first and dwell on for a while is, “why?” “Why” is it so important to enter into these 40 days at all and view them as any different than any other days of the year?
Most good Christians will answer, “It is important so we can prepare ourselves for the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ during the Tridium.” While the answer is correct, it is somewhat limited and really doesn’t get to the heart of “why.” Yes, for sure, we want to grow by God’s grace, in holiness and virtue, but Lent is a lot more than a forty-day self-improvement program. The second reading we have today from Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians gives us a pretty good answer to the whole “why” question.
First Paul gives us an awesome job title beyond the simple word Christian, when he says, “So, we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us.” God appealing through us. OK St. Paul, that makes me squirm a little. Then good old Paul tells us, as ambassadors, what our message to the world must be. We are supposed to tell the world, “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” Oh no, you may be saying to yourself right now, wait a second Lord, I’m not a Priest, a Deacon, or a missionary and you want me running around telling people to be reconciled to God? That ain’t my job. Well friends, all I can say is this, it’s right there in the Bible, written down by St Paul for all of us Christians.
Hearing this, some of us may feel inadequate or unworthy. How could God ever use an ordinary, sinful, broken person, like me to reach other people? The answer is, God does it all the time! All we need to do is read the Bible and try counting, how many times do the Apostles seem to open their mouths and insert their feet? Gosh, probably the greatest of all at that accomplishment was St. Peter himself. You have to wonder sometimes, why the Evangelists didn’t cut those repeated screw-ups by the Apostles out of the Bible’s stories. My sisters and brothers, I think they left all those embarrassing missteps by the Apostles in the Bible to show us just how normal and human those guys really were. They illustrate how God can do amazing things even through broken, sinful, unsophisticated people,,, maybe just like me and you. At the end of the day, it isn’t about our unworthiness; it is about our resolve to cling to Christ and be open to the movement of His grace in our lives.
This is what the season of Lent is truly about. This is the “why.” We engage in acts of almsgiving, fasting, and prayer so we can open ourselves more fully to the saving grace of Jesus, and be transformed into better witnesses to others, better ambassadors for Christ. And always remember what St. Francis told us, the best way to witness is without using words. So, now I’d like to say a simple prayer for us all to begin this year’s Lenten season. “Lord God, give me the Grace to recognize and overcome the sins, vices, or failings of my life hindering me from being the best ambassador for your Son Jesus, allowing you to appeal to the world through me.” Amen.