Here is my homily for today. May all of you have a holy Lent!
Ash Wednesday, Cycle C
Joel 2:12-18; 2 Cor 5: 20-6:2; Mt 6:1-6, 16-18
March 2, 2022
God asks us to pray, fast, and give alms. He wants us to give him our hearts and our lives, not because he needs anything from us, but because he wants us to know who he is and how to speak about him.
A student in Rome was standing before the main altar in St. Peter’s Basilica and the tomb of the Apostle, taking in the splendor and wonder of the building and all the pilgrims passing through it. A man came up to him from the Far East, and was thumbing through his tour guide in his native language. He turned to the student and asked, “What is this?” “It is St. Peter’s Basilica. Right down there is the tomb of Peter,” responded the student. The pilgrim started thumbing again through his tour book, and asked the student, “And who is this Peter?” The student explained that he was an apostle of Jesus. The pilgrim thumbed again through his book, and anxiously turned to the student once more and asked, “And who is this Jesus?” The student was stunned, and didn’t know what to say, never anticipating such a question. And who is this Jesus? Can you speak of him this Lent? Will you?
This may be the beginning of our story of Lent 2021. We often begin Lent not really knowing what to say about Jesus. We may be sleeping through our spiritual lives. When Easter comes we hopefully will understand better who Jesus is and what he has done for us; but between now to then, we need to clean our houses. We must be purified from all that keeps us tongue-tied or sleepy, and sacrifice some tightly-held, precious attitudes about ourselves and Jesus.
Jesus reveals himself to us during Lent, in whatever way he chooses. When he does, will we know what to say?
“Who do people say I am?” Jesus asks. Some say a great prophet. Others say a wise teacher. More and more people are saying he is a religious fiction. Jesus is asking us, “Who do you say that I am?” Do we know what to say, how to answer?
When Jesus reveals himself to you this Lent, he will smile and say, “Come, follow me. Come and see.” Follow him wherever he leads you. He may lead you up a beautiful high mountain, or he may lead you down into a dark valley like the Garden of Gethsemane, but wherever it will be, follow him. He is the way. If you follow him, you will know how to live; you will know how to love; you will know how to tell others about him.
Perhaps we need to remember what the Apostles preached. Jesus is the Son of God who was born among us, died for us, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and remains with us
always until the end of time.
As Pope St. Paul VI said years ago:
“I am bound to proclaim that Jesus … the Son of the living God. Because of him we come to know the God that we cannot see. He was born for us, died for us, and for us he rose from the dead…. a man of sorrow and hope, he know us and loves us. As our friend he stays by us throughout our lives; at the end of time he will come to be our judge; …. he will be the complete fulfillment of our lives and our great happiness for all eternity. …he is the way, the truth and the life. He is our bread, our source of living water who allays our hunger and satisfies our thirst. He is our shepherd, our leader, our ideal, our comforter and our brother.
He is like us but more perfectly human, simple, poor, humble… He spoke on our behalf; he worked miracles; and he founded a new kingdom: in it the poor are happy; peace is the foundation of a life in common; where the pure of heart and those who mourn are uplifted and comforted; the hungry find justice; sinners are forgiven; and all discover that they are brothers.
So once again I repeat his name to you…. and I proclaim to all men: Jesus Christ… [it] is Jesus Christ I preach day in and day out. His name I would see echo and reecho for all time even to the ends of the earth.”