The Joy of Lent!

for Ash Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

Liturgical texts here



ASHES, sackcloth, fasting, penance, mortification, sacrifice… These are the common themes of Lent. So who would think of this penitential season as a time of joy? Easter Sunday? Yes, joy! But the forty days of penance?

Yet, herein lies the paradox of the Cross: it is precisely in dying that we rise again to new life; it is in denying the false self that one truly finds oneself; it is in seeking the Kingdom of God first instead of one’s own little kingdom that you will enjoy the fruits of His Kingdom. While we are entering upon the journey of Christ’s Passion at this time, we cannot forgot that He has already flung open the treasuries of Heaven and that He desires to give us now that which He won through His death and resurrection:

I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)

Who is saying that you must wait until Easter Sunday to know the joy of communion with Christ? But this supernatural joy comes by one means only, and that is through the Cross. What does this mean? Many will answer, “Suffering, self-denial, aridity, etc…” That is one viewpoint, one that several saints adopted with rigourous mortifications. But there is perhaps another way to approach Lent…

In today’s first reading, the prophet Joel echoes the Lord’s plea:

Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart…

When we seek the Lord with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength, with all our mind, it implies, as we soon find out, having to deny other “gods” that wish to steal part of our hearts, whether it is food, money, power, pornography, bitterness, etc. But the essence of Joel’s word is positive, even though the Lord says “return to me… with fasting, and weeping, and mourning…” The Lord is not asking you to be gloomy; He is showing us that there is a path to joy in the heart in the one who enters into true humility. And true humility is facing my sinfulness, all of it, head on. It is recognizing and naming all my interior corruption… I am dust. This truth, the truth of who I am and who I’m not, is the first truth that sets me free, that begins to release the joy of Jesus in my heart.

And I can face this sometimes agonizing truth that leaves me “weeping and mourning” precisely because of a more fundamental truth that, despite my sinfulness, I am loved by God:

…gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment. (First reading)

Thus, the entire Gospel today about how to fast and give alms is not so much a technical guide but a manifesto on the new attitude that must mark the life of those in the New Covenant, “when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth.” [1]John 4:23

Lent, then, is not about rending one’s garments, but one’s heart. [2]First reading That is, opening wide one’s heart to God so that He may fill and transform it, which is our new destiny in Christ…

…so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. (Second reading)

My dear brothers and sisters, one can begin today moaning about how much he will miss his coffee, or she will miss her chocolate for the next forty days… or we can begin with the fire of anticipation that each day, as I seek the Lord first, Easter has already come…

Give me back the joy of your salvation, and a willing spirit sustain in me. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise. (Today’s Psalm)


Still trying to decide what sacrifice or penance to make for Lent? How about giving up 5 minutes a day with Mark, meditating upon the daily Now Word in the Mass readings
for these forty days.

A sacrifice that will feed your soul!



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1 John 4:23
2 First reading
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