Our Ash Wednesday liturgy was held today in the Sacred Heart Church. 

Lent is a time of commitment from us all. During the Lenten period, we are challenged to pray, to forgive, to love others and allow the grace of God to grow stronger in us. This, of course, takes conscious effort from us all. I know our Mercy Action Group are urging all students to support Project Compassion this Lent by remembering to donate a small amount each day.

Ash Wednesday begins the forty-day season of Lent that leads to Easter. On Ash Wednesday, we come together to remind ourselves that we don’t always follow God’s ways and need to ask God for His mercy and forgiveness.

Lent and Easter are times of renewal and commitment to new life. Of course, it is not just during Lent that these things are important but it is through the Lenten discipline that we attempt to make small, but important, changes in the whole of our lives on an ongoing basis.

Pope Francis states that Lent is a good time to concentrate on fighting the urge to gossip about others and instead trying to correct one’s own faults, “We all know it usually is easier or more comfortable to notice and condemn the defects and sins of others rather than seeing our own with that kind of clarity.”

The Pope reminds us that Jesus “wants to teach us to not go around criticizing others, not go looking for others’ defects, but look first at your own.” Unfortunately, he said, people seldom stop at just noticing others’ defects, something “we are experts at. What almost always happens next”, he said, is that “we talk about them,” not telling the person to his or her face in a way that could help the person improve but indulging freely and happily in gossip. “We are experts in finding the bad things in others and not seeing our own.” Instead of talking to the wo/man, we talk about him/her.

Speaking the Sunday before Lent was to begin; Pope Francis said it would be great if everyone tried during Lent to reflect on Jesus’ words to see the faults only of others and on the temptation of gossip. We should ask themselves, “Am I a hypocrite who smiles and then turns around to criticize and destroy with my tongue?” He said. “If, by the end of Lent, we are able to correct this a bit and not go around always criticizing others behind their backs, I assure you (the celebration of) Jesus’ resurrection will be more beautiful.”

A reminder for us all that to be fully alive is to be open to others and to serve others. Learning the skills to live out your attitudes and values requires forgiveness and mercy – to oneself and to others.