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Ash Wednesday 2022

02 March 2022

Appears in: Messages and Homilies

Ash Wednesday 2022

Homily

[Joel 2:12-18; Psalm 51; 2Corinthians 5:20-6:2; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18]

As you may know, a delegation of Indigenous peoples, together with some Bishops, is traveling to Rome at the end of March for a series of encounters with the Holy Father. It will be an important moment on the path of healing and reconciliation in our country. I have been involved in the preparation of this for quite some time, and I have noticed the difficulty we often have to define “reconciliation”. Everyone wants it, but there is a struggle to understand what it means, what it looks like. The most helpful definition I have heard proposed comes from respected Indigenous leaders, who speak of reconciliation as the re-establishment of good relations.

I raise this issue of understanding reconciliation properly for two reasons. First, because with Ash Wednesday we enter into the liturgical season of Lent, a time in which we heed the call of St. Paul to “be reconciled to God.” Second, we are living in a historical moment when the need both to understand reconciliation and practice it is especially acute.  We see this clearly in the aggression waged against Ukraine. Yet we have also been experiencing this need keenly in our own country for quite some time. In many ways we have lost the ability to speak civilly and respectfully with one another, oftentimes preferring instead to shout past one another, trade barbs through the press, or snipe at individuals or entire groups of people through social media. Reconciliation – the re-establishment of good relations – is urgently needed with God and with one another.

The path to this two-fold reconciliation, begins, of course, with ourselves. In this time of prayerful self-examination, we each ask how we need to change in order to set out on the way of reconciliation. With regard to God, this means asking what I need to do to restore the relationship. Have I been attentive daily to the Word of God? Do I celebrate the sacraments regularly, especially Mass on Sunday and a regular pattern of confession? Am I praying every day? What place do the practices of Christian fasting and charity have in my life? Do I honour Jesus Christ as Sovereign Lord of my life, or do I allow his loving guidance to be crowded out by selfish pursuits? As I live each day, is the following of Jesus my first thought, or an afterthought? Do I give it no thought at all?

With respect to re-establishing good relations with others, being reconciled with them, it is useful to begin by considering the way we speak of others. Do I strive to build people up or bring them down? Do I look for the good in the other, or seek only their faults? Am I a gossip? We can consider, too, particular relationships in need of healing. Am I estranged from a family member? How might I reach out? Do I need to seek forgiveness from another? Am I refusing to forgive someone who has hurt me?

The key to this self-examination is to do so in the light of God’s love and mercy. We cannot do this properly unaided by the Lord. If we open our minds and hearts to God, He will show us where we need to change in order to heed the call to reconciliation. Let us make it our constant prayer this Lent that He do so.

As we now come forward to receive ashes, let this be an outward sign of our inner commitment to walk along the path of reconciliation, to embark anew on the re-establishment of right relations with God and with our fellow human beings.

Most Reverend Richard W. Smith
St. Joseph’s Basilica
March 2nd, 2022