PS 51: 3-4, 5-6A B, 12-13, 14 and 17
2 COR 5:20- 6:2
MT 6:1-6, 16-18
On this Ash Wednesday, we return to an annual call to conversion through the Church's invitation. Even better, it's Jesus' invitation to us personally and also communally. People today throughout the world will present themselves to receive the mark of this call to conversion, to repentance, namely a sign of the cross on our foreheads made of ashes. These ashes come from the palms from last Palm Sunday- another outward sign- of the "victorious" entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. "Victorious" in quotation marks because soon after Jesus entered Jerusalem, the crowds that adored him turned on him and called for his crucifixion.
The fleeting nature of those mob scenes that will be revisited at the end of Lent call us to a sense of depth today. "Even now", the Lord says, "you can turn to me.” Even now, right now, there is a chance for a new start. There is a chance for our hearts that have grown dry and hardened and filled perhaps with self-righteousness, resentment, bitterness and maybe anger- even now, those hearts can be turned back into hearts of flesh that are able to love and to be loved. Our hearts can take in the outrage and anger and fear that surrounds us in today’s world and give back mercy, patience and tenderness. Our hearts can be changed from being stony to being tender only if we allow them to be pierced. “Rend your hearts, not your garments” says the Lord. Perhaps we might ask ourselves at the beginning of this Lent, how might I allow my heart to be moved, to be pierced, to be broken open for the sake of allowing new love in and allowing new love to go out from it?
Fr. Chris Collins, SJ is Assistant to the President for Mission and Identity.