Ash Wednesday

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Today’s Lenten reflection is written by Fr. Dennis Gallagher, A.A.,
Provincial Superior of the North American Province

So much of our time and psychic energy during these past months has been spent in responding to an unexpected health crisis. It has restricted our movements and social interactions, and its various constraints have burdened our hearts. As such, it has felt something like an interminably long Lent.

On this Ash Wednesday, as we begin the liturgical season of Lent, how should we orient ourselves? What might be the content of our prayer and our practice during this time of grace? Lent is our annual season of conversion, when the hope of a freshly renewed relationship to the source of our life is made available to us. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8), always ready to refashion us – in pandemic and out of pandemic.

I will speak for myself. As to the need for renewal and refreshment, I’m feeling it. I know well enough that the gradual release from the pandemic’s hold is not to be confused with what’s needed to be released from the tyranny of my own ego. Lent is a time of personal agency, the Church’s assigned season for undergoing the rigors of self-sacrifice and mortification. Today’s first reading tells us that this does not mean long faces and showy gestures. It’s an effort at detachment, painful enough, whose goal is a deeper attachment to the only true source of our freedom and joy.

We are full of ourselves, and to that extent we see less clearly and act less resolutely. The forty-day journey upon which we embark is a re-joining with firm step the path of discipleship. Its promise is to open our eyes to the needs of others and fortify our wills for the work of evangelization. This is the way of the Cross, of course, but also the way of new life in solidarity with all who cry out to God in their need.

Let us lift up one another in prayer now and in the days ahead.