Commentary on the Gospel of
One of the most touching liturgical seasons begins today—the Season of Lent. We begin Lent with the observance of Ash Wednesday.
When I was ministering as an associate pastor at a large parish, I was also chaplain-on-call to a nearby major hospital as well as to seven convalescent homes. On Ash Wednesday, I was in great demand! The Church would have repeated ash Wednesday liturgy throughout the day to cater to the faithful, and the Church would be packed to capacity almost all sessions. I would then take ashes to the hospital and convalescent homes, and everyone there—patients as well as nursing staff, irrespective of being Christian or not—would delightfully ask for ashes on their forehead.
There was something about ashes that was irresistible! I was not sure why. Perhaps it was the unconscious awareness that we came from the elements and we would return to them! Or perhaps, at least partly so, it is also our unquenchable consumerist desire to “get” something. After all, Communion is reserved; ashes are more democratically distributed!
If that second suspicion of mine approximates reality, it would be very sad! For, the Lenten season goes exactly reverse to the wisdom of getting something – it is all about giving and learning to die!
Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving – the triple imperatives Jesus places before us today are all about learning to give and give up! Prayer is all about giving glory and praise to God. Fasting is about giving up our tendency to fill us with goods. Almsgiving is about making a habit of sharing what we have. All three put together is about making space within us – for God and the other. All three put together is also learning to die on a daily basis, so that Christ can fill us on a daily basis.