I will celebrate the Mass for the community and the public Ash Wednesday afternoon. The photo below here is one of my favorites. I took it in May 2008 about 15 hours after arriving in Taipei. Fr. Ignatius Hung, SJ took three busloads of parishioners on a one-day pilgrimage to an indigenous village about 3 hours away. I think it was called Didi. After Mass there was a terrific meal eaten outdoors. Not speaking much Chinese I wandered around with the camera and caught this photo. Other photos at the end of homily.
2 Cor 5:20-6:2
Mt 6:1-6; 16-18
Today we observe the beginning of Lent with the ancient custom of the imposition of ashes; a custom that is apparently gaining favor in some Protestant denominations. It is a time of at least nodding in the general direction of fasting.
Today we begin our 40-day procession through a season described as penitential. But it is more than that. It is, or it should be, transformational. It depends on how we approach it.
The first reading from Joel puts today into context. He calls for an assembly, a fast in the setting of a liturgy. Blow the trumpets. Call an assembly. Gather the people. Everyone from the youngest to the eldest is invited. The same is true of the Eucharistic banquet. Everyone is invited.
Thus we gather in assembly to listen to the word of God, to receive the ashes that both remind us of our mortality and call us to undergo a change of heart so as to live more closely according to the Gospel. And to receive the Body and Blood of Christ whose passion death and resurrection we will commemorate and celebrate at the climax of these forty days.
Lent is not just a season of “give ups”: smoking, chocolate, desert, meat, and so on. It is a time of taking on: taking on time to meditate on the Gospel, taking on time for spiritual reading, prayer or adoration. And it is a time to heed the advice of St. Jane de Chantal, foundress of the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary, “We cannot always offer God great things but at each instant we can offer little things with great love.” Offering those little things with great love may be a more difficult mortification than giving up desert for the next forty days.
The second reading in today’s Office of Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours is a letter from St. Clement, pope, to the Corinthians. It lays out a reasonable map for Lent. “We should be humble in mind, putting aside all arrogance, pride and foolish anger.” He then reminds us, “Recall especially what the Lord Jesus said when he taught gentleness and forbearance. Be merciful, so that you may have mercy shown to you. Forgive, so that you may be forgiven. As you treat others, as you will be treated . . .”
Lent is a time to challenge ourselves to be more fully what Jesus wants us to be, to be more fully what we want to be, but may not know how to become.
There are two formulae for the imposition of ashes. The first is a reminder of our common mortality: “Remember, thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return.”
The second is advice not only for the season of Lent but the rest of our lives: “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospels.”
As we begin the holy season of Lent, we are called to
meditate on one, and to live according to the other.
The Book of the Gospels in the Fu-Jen University Jesuit Community Chapel in Taiwan. Whether written in English or Mandarin, it is the guide, particularly during this season of lent.
Candles in a storage area off the sacristy at Campion Center in Weston, MA. They will be aglow come the Triduum that leads into the joyous celebration of Easter.
This last is the Chapel of the Holy Spirit at Campion Center. On 14 August 1999 I knelt in front of the altar to pronounce perpetual vows in the Society. On 10 June 2007 I stood behind it celebrating my first Mass.