My Dear Friends,
Believe it or not, Lent begins this coming Wednesday. It feels like we never quite emerged from Lent in 2020. God has taken us into the desert of this pandemic which has caused us to seek God out all the more, and now we are called to that renewal again. Even though we are approaching a year since the pandemic started, we may have gotten too complacent with this desert experience. We may be brushing it off by thinking that we know how to navigate this “new normal.” Complacency is poison to the spiritual life. God is constantly calling us to conversion, and now we are blessed with the opportunity to re-discover the desert experience of Lent to able to weed out the nasty habits we have picked up over the last year.
Along with complacency, one of the main evils that I have seen in our people since the pandemic started is the capital sin of sloth. This is a product of having to stay in our homes last year for an extended period of time. We’ve become slothful in our work, in our studies, and sadly in our spiritual lives. This has translated to people not making coming to Mass in person a priority even though they may be going to theme parks and malls and other public places. Let us root out this evil during the Lenten season and embrace the work that God wants us to do to build up the kingdom of God in our parish and to live holier lives.
We always begin Lent by recognizing our sinfulness through the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday. The celebration of Ash Wednesday will take place like every other year here at our parish and the imposition of ashes will be done as is our custom with a cross of ashes traced on our foreheads. Archbishop Wenski put forth guidelines for Ash Wednesday during the pandemic, and while the guidelines do not really change, there is one note that was added that I wanted to share for those who may be apprehensive about receiving ashes during the pandemic: “The wearing of ashes, while customary and laudable, is not an obligation of the faithful, so anyone who is fearful of becoming sick should not come forward, or even come to Mass on Ash Wednesday.” So, for those wishing to receive ashes, we will approach the ministers with masks on like we would for Holy Communion, and we will receive the ashes on our foreheads like we do every year to go out into the world to bear witness that we are sinners in need of redemption and anxious to receive the graces that come from conversion. If you come to Mass and do not wish to receive ashes, that is perfectly fine. What is in our hearts is more important than what is on our foreheads.
I pray you all have a blessed Lent and that we will all be together in our church to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord at the end of our Lenten journey.
God bless you all,