Ash Wednesday Homily
Year B February 18, 2015
“Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart.” You and I are here because at least a portion of our heart is for the Lord. But the Lord doesn’t want just one piece of our heart-he wants all of it. “Return to me with your whole heart.”
Before I go any further, I have something to confess: I have not given my whole heart to the Lord. I have not turned over all my affections, my finances, and my time to the Lord. I haven’t given him my all. Although we all have different temptations and failings, I am sinner just like you. I have to admit that upfront. But there is another thing I have to admit: I know that Jesus is not finished with me. No matter what you or I have done, Jesus continues to care for you and me. Some here might consider themselves finished, but Jesus is not finished with us.
One sign of the fact that Jesus is not finished with you is that you are here today. You will receive ashes on your forehead-a symbol of repentance. You are also here to begin the season of Lent-a season of internal cleansing-an opportunity to gain a new mind and a new heart.
This Lent, I will be giving a series of Homilies entitled “New Mind and Heart.” They will be posted on the parish website. Each Sunday, Jesus will tell us how to reach that goal of getting a new Mind and Heart. Today, Jesus invites us to take three steps in that direction. The first involves fasting and abstaining from meat on the Fridays of Lent. I must admit that when I abstain from meat on Fridays, I am often tempted to order a steak at a restaurant. (I do love steak!) On those days, I offer my penance up for those who go without food.
Remember, too, that we are invited to fast. This means that we can take in one regular meal with two smaller meals. In addition, I would encourage each of you to think about giving up a favorite food such as coffee or sweets. It’s good to feel some hunger so that we can more fully appreciate God’s gifts and grow in our hunger for God himself.
Fasting helps us move toward acquiring a new mind and heart, and it leads to another practice: almsgiving. This means asking God to get our finances in order so that we can dedicate our “first fruits” to Him. After all, we were created for good works, and we will be learning about what that means in the weeks to come.
Fasting and finances lead to a third practice: finding more time for God. This does not mean squeezing in prayer. Rather, it means ordering our time, and-perhaps-fasting from certain activities so that we can spend more time with God. I know we are all busy, but studies show that TV, the internet, and many other diversions consume a great deal of our time. These aren’t bad, but could we give at least 20 minutes a day to prayer? We have many opportunities for prayer-Stations of the Cross, daily Mass, Eucharistic Adoration-could we not take advantage of those?
Fasting, finances, and finding time for God-three things that Jesus proposes to give us a new mind and heart. Others may not notice, but God will still give you a new mind and heart. You will be become a more committed disciple of Jesus. Amen.