Ash Wednesday Is An Invitation to Turn Away From Sin and Be Faithful to the Gospel
There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just. The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to the slavery of sin
When lent is voluntarily embraced it opens us to a deeper experience of the freedom which Jesus Christ has obtained for each one of us. Because "it was for freedom that Christ set us free" (Galatians 5:1,2) we enter into Lent with our whole person, it can draw us at its' closure, into a deeper experience and embrace of the power of the Resurrection, beginning right now. The practices of piety, asceticism and extended prayer and worship challenge us to "turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel".
CHESAPEAKE (Catholic Online) - On this Ash Wednesday I will again stand alongside of the Priest, to administer the ashes to the faithful who come forward. Together we begin the 40 day journey of repentance and conversion known as Lent. We are joined to millions in every Nation on the earth.
The Ordo offers two exhortations to be said by the Priest or the Deacon as the Ashes, the burnt Palms from the prior years Passion/Palm Sunday, are rubbed into the penitent's forehead. "Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel" or "Remember you are dust and to dust you will return".
They serve as a sign of our committment to repentance and conversion. Being marked with those ashes begins our Lenen observances and disciplines.They continue for forty days until the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday.
During these forty days the Lord Jesus Christ invites us to walk with Him on the Way of the Cross. This simple but solemn Ash Wednesday service is an invitation every year to those who have eyes to comprehend its opportunity. It is up to us to accept it and open its potential through our response, our free choice, to participate in its potential.
To an age enamored with false concepts of "choice" the Catholic Church rightly insists that some "choices" are always and everywhere wrong. She teaches that what is chosen not only affects the world - but changes the "chooser." These words from Saint Gregory of Nyssa, quoted in the Catechism as well as in Blessed John Paul II's Encyclical Letter, "The Splendor of Truth", give some insights concerning our choices:
"Now, human life is always subject to change: it needs to be born ever anew.but here birth does not come about by a foreign intervention, as is the case with bodily beings, it is the result of a free choice. Thus we are in a certain way our own parents, creating ourselves as we will, by our decisions."
Freedom has consequences - and our choices not only affect the world around us, they change us - making us become the persons we become. The capacity to make choices is what makes us human persons. It reflects the "Imago Dei," the Image of God, present within every human person.
As the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council wrote in their wonderful document on the Mission of the Church in the Modern World, "Authentic freedom is an outstanding manifestation of the divine image within man." (Gaudium et Spes, "Joy and Hope," 17).
The Catechism also addresses the sobering implications of the exercise human freedom when it reminds us that "Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself." (CCC, 1861.) In other words, what we choose truly matters. Authentic Human Freedom cannot be realized in decisions made against God and against the Natural Law.
Authentic freedom has a moral constitution. It must be exercised in reference to the truth concerning the human person, the family, our obligations in solidarity to one another and the common good. That is why the fullness of authentic human freedom is ultimately found in a relationship with the God who is its source and who alone can set us free in and through His Son Jesus.
Because of the effects of sin, our freedom has been fractured. Only the splint of the Cross can restore it. That splint needs to be applied to our broken lives, our broken relationships, our broken promises and our disordered passions.We need to be saved, set free, and lent calls us to participate in that process called conversion.
In his encyclical letter on Faith and Reason, Blessed John Paul wrote: "It is not just that freedom is part of the act of faith: it is absolutely required. Indeed, it is faith that allows individuals to give consummate expression to their own freedom. Put differently, freedom is not realized in decisions made against God."
"For how could it be an exercise of true freedom to refuse to be open to the very reality which enables our self-realization? Men and women can accomplish no more important act in their lives than the act of faith; it is here that freedom reaches the certainty of truth and chooses to live in that truth." (Fides et Ratio # 13)
Choosing the good is the pathway to the realization of the fullness of authentic human freedom, flourishing and real happiness. Again the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, "The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just. The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to "the slavery of sin." (Cf. Rom 6:17) (CCC 1733)
Ash Wednesday begins a period of protracted prayer, penance, meditation and ascetical practices(acts befitting our true repentance) which is called "Lent", a word which is derived from the "lengthening" of the hours of the day ...
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