A new springtime awaits Christians as they embark on a fresh journey. Travellers taking the journey will not measure the distance in steps, miles or kilometres. During lockdown, travel restrictions are limited to 5 km. These restrictions present huge challenges for individuals and family life. Consequently, people feel lonely, isolated, angry, sad, and disappointed. In spite of these feelings, deep in their hearts they have faith, hope and a spirit of love which will help them travel the Lenten journey, beginning today Ash Wednesday.
Normally, Ash Wednesday begins with the distribution of ashes. This year because of Covid-19 and maintaining social distance, parishes will distribute ashes in a variety of ways. In whatever way we receive ashes God calls each one to a greater love in their lives.
In the reading proclaimed at Mass today (Joel 2:12-18), God speaks to each person, through the prophet Joel. God invites him/ her to ‘come back to me [God] with all your heart.’ Why does God call them to do that? Because God wants everyone to know and experience that, he is all ‘tenderness and compassion…slow to anger and ready to relent.’
As we receive the ashes each year, we hear the priest say, ‘turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.’ Today, we hear these same words but due to social distancing, we imagine the priest or the extraordinary minister of the Eucharist marking our own foreheads with the cross. We pray silently as we feel the print of the cross, ‘turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.’
We turn away from sin and grow in faithfulness to the Gospel by doing what Jesus taught us. He instructs us to pray, fast and to give alms. We cannot do this alone but Jesus will help us. In response to Jesus’ call, we commit ourselves in a new way to God.
We pray to God by giving time to say thanks, to ask for help and say sorry; we fast by giving up selfishness and being generous, by giving up unkind words and speaking kind words; we give alms by sharing our money with Trócaire, the Society of St Vincent de Paul or some other charity. All these activities take lots of effort, not just for one day but forty days. We seek our help ‘one day at a time’ as we trust God.
God blesses our journey as we follow Jesus with all our heart, our soul and mind. The Gospel (Mt 6: 1-6, 16-18) calls us to travel the journey of prayer, fasting and almsgiving in a calm and gentle manner as God ‘who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.’
Enjoy the journey and know you are not alone. The Word of God spurs us on every day.
VERITAS publications offers free access to the Lenten resources in the Grow in Love/I nGrá Dé Lessons from Junior Infants to Sixth Class; available on the Grow in Love / I nGrá Dé website. This includes the Children’s Grow in Love /I nGrá Dé e book.
- Our Father/Ár nAthair
- Make the threefold Sign of the Cross as you sign your forehead, your lips and your heart, expressing your faith in God
- From the Children’s Grow in Love /I nGrá Dé textbook or e-book or from the Bible read from the Gospel of Matthew. (Mt 6:1-6, 16-18).
- Take one of Pope Francis’ suggestions, draw a picture and try to do what he suggests. You will find the Pope’s message for Lent on the Vatican website.
- Have you collected your Trócaire box from the Church? What happens the money that we put in the Trócaire box?
Sr Anne Neylon