Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization

"Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization"

Check out the revised edition of this exciting and unique prayer book, filled with prayers that are sure to nourish the soul as we undertake the New Evangelization.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Homily Ash Wednesday 6 February 2008

Those who do not understand the authentic Tradition and teachings of the Church
often set up false dichotomies between apparently disparate realities.

In Church news right now, our Holy Father has been harshly criticized
by some poorly informed commentators
who view his approach to the Liturgy as a rejection of Vatican II.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.
What we are seeing in the papacy of Benedict XVI
is the recovery of beautiful aspects of our Catholic heritage – your heritage
which have been lost
and the re-orientation of worship in the direction it belongs:
toward God, and not toward ourselves.

This recovery and re-orientation is in no way in opposition to Vatican II…
but is in every way in continuity with the whole Catholic Tradition.

Today’s readings give us an opportunity to reflect on this theme…
and the beautiful Catholic world view…
which sees things not as “either/or” but as “both/and”
so long as both are reflective of the ultimate truth of Christ.

In the Gospel, Jesus gives His famous admonitions
about the danger of making a spectacle of our religious observances.
“Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them.”
Do not blow a trumpet to announce your almsgiving.
Do not pray publicly on street corners.
Do not soil your face so as to make your fasting obvious.

Instead, pray, fast, and give alms in secret…
and your Father, who sees in secret, will repay you.

However, just moments before we heard these words from Jesus,
we heard the prophet Joel declare:
“Blow the trumpet in Zion!
Proclaim a fast, call an assembly!
Gather the people…assemble the elders!”

Not only that…but here we are…
praying in a very public way in this huge church building
and smearing ashes on our foreheads
to make our Lenten observance very obvious!

One might find in all this an inherent contradiction.

Instead, we who have faith in Jesus find in this celebration and in these readings
the core reality of our Lenten observance:
the outward symbols of our faith are absolutely necessary
but they are without value
if they do not flow from a deep, inner conversion of our hearts and reorientation of our lives toward the Lord.

Outward symbols and rituals are of great significance to us…
as is public celebration of the Church’s liturgical prayer
and public witness to the Faith and to what God has wrought in our lives.

Sometimes, too, when words are not enough,
we have to show to others what is important.

In the seminary, we heard many talks about our role as public leaders and witnesses.
Our rector would say:
“Do not pray to be seen; but it’s good to be seen praying.”

Outward signs…on our bodies, in our worship, and in our church buildings…
do matter a great deal.

They help us better understand and teach to others
the mysteries of the faith and the themes of our liturgical seasons.

But outward signs are at least pointless, if not destructive,
if they do not flow from hearts united to the Lord
and if they do not express the authentic faith of the Church.

Outward signs are significant.
But inner conversion of our hearts is of eternal significance
and must lie at the foundation of all we do and say.

Lent affords us the opportunity to recognize that we are sinners in need of mercy,
and to embrace the inner conversion which the Lord desires.
We undertake this process of conversion anew each Lent …
this process of turning of hearts and lives back to God…
by uniting our hearts to God in prayer
by disciplining our bodies and spirits through fasting
and by giving alms…sacrificing our own treasures for those in need.

Now is the acceptable time of which Saint Paul speaks…
now is the day of salvation!

Now is the time for conversion and deeper holiness…
and so may we all make this Lent our best Lent ever…
for we know not if we shall see another one.
May we turn our hearts ever more toward the Lord…
in all we do…this Lent and every day…
and so draw ever closer to the heart of Christ,
which was bruised for our offenses, and pierced for our sins.

Praise to you, O Lord Jesus Christ, king of endless glory!

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