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 10, 2016

Ash Wednesday

Today we are blessed to begin once again the Season of Lent and, in a special way, to embark on the Season of Repentance within the Year of Mercy.  In this Jubilee Year, we are focused on the importance of both seeking and giving mercy - asking the Lord for the healing and transforming power of His merciful love and practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy as the way of reaching out to the most vulnerable among us in order that, through our charity, they might see the face of God. 

In order that we might become instruments of mercy, we need to first experience what it is like to be shown mercy ourselves.  Chet Wallaby, the "corporate scapegoat" in the latest Little Caesar's commercials, "apologizes" and states that he is solely to blame for all mistakes and faults of the company.  This is clearly inauthentic repentance.  He has been instructed about what to say and doesn't really believe in his heart the contrition he expresses in his words.  The Church places words on our lips all the time.  In the responsorial psalm for today's Mass, for example, we all say "Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned."  We say it.  We may even acknowledge some remote connection to ourselves as we join in with everyone in saying the words.  Yet, we have to ask ourselves if we really mean it.  Ash Wednesday is about acknowledging that we are sinners, so we can begin a forty-day journey of repentance and deeper conversion.  This demands facing what we would rather avoid and honesty about who we are and what we have done.  Only when we admit our faults can they be forgiven.  Only with honesty comes the power from on high to grow into the best person each of us is capable of being. 

It is not possible for us to truly give mercy if we have not received it.  We would just be saying and doing what we feel we are supposed to do in response to a need - our duty - but not authentically sharing the mercy of God poured into our hearts when, humbly on our knees, we begged God to forgive our sins.  Having experienced mercy, we are filled with gratitude and awe because the Father sent His Son to humble Himself and bleed in agony on the Cross that we might have new and abundant life.  Knowing that Jesus has redeemed us and feeling the power of that redemption made available to us in Confession sparks a desire within us to share God's love and mercy to men and women suffering from physical and spiritual needs. 

It is equally impossible to receive mercy without a sense of sin, a concept lost on many people today in a culture where one's individual choice and desire trump the moral law and the common good.  We need to acknowledge we are sinners, for we will not receive mercy unless we ask for it.  Lent's opportunity for deeper conversion - indeed the Year of Mercy as well - will not yield much fruit if we do not admit our sinfulness, cultivate a healthy sense among all people that every one of us is a sinner in need of grace, and honestly confess our need for mercy. 

Therefore, today, we step out with faith into another Lent.    We pray that the Lord will take us where we need to go this Lent - to a place of seeing clearly our sins and need for mercy - even if we are not sure where that place is.  May we have the courage to be honest about ourselves, open up to the power of the Spirit, who can reveal where we need to change our lives, and beg for mercy.  Having been called out by God and anointed with healing grace, we shall become ambassadors from God to a world hungering for love and truth. 

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