Summary: This is a sermon about Ash Wednesday and how it is a day of new beginnings.


“Blessed be the longing that brought you here and that quickens your soul with wonder.”

This line is from a poem titled “A Blessing” by a man named John O’Donohue. I came across it quite by accident (or by God) As I was getting ready for work this morning and even though I had worked on and completed my reflection for this service I just knew God was telling me it wasn’t complete and that’s why this poem was put in my line of vision.

We are all here today for various reasons: for some it is an obligation that they feel must be met – I’m catholic, it’s Ash Wed., time to go get my forehead dirty. For some it is an extension of who they are as worshiping Catholics. What every your reason for being here I believe it is that longing as the poet declares that quickens your soul with wonder that ultimately brought you out to this church this afternoon. We were all pulled here by some unexplainable longing, some desire to be with each other to be with God.

What a strange group of people we are! Gathered together for the express purpose of receiving a cross made of ashes on our foreheads as a sign that Lent has begun. What a strange group of people we are! Yet, what a courageous faith filled group we are! We will leave here today with those ash crosses etched on our foreheads for the entire world to see. We will wear them as a badge declaring to all who we are and what we stand for –Ambassadors of Christ who are contrite and forgiven.

I love this day! While it is a day that marks the beginning of a season – Lent in which we are called to pray, fast and give alms it is a day of great joy, of tremendous hope!

St. Paul tells us in his letter that “TODAY IS THE ACCEPTABLE TIME! TODAY IS THE DAY OF SALVATION!” And right now – March 5, 2003 this message may be the most important one for us to hear.

We have been through a great deal the last 2 years as a people, as a nation as a church. We read the newspapers, hear the TV news reporters telling us of all that is wrong with the world, all that is wrong with the Church; we live in fear of war, of terrorist attacks –it seems as though all hope is lost. But here we are ready to receive a sign that hope is not lost! The sign that as long as we place our trust in God we will be okay.

But, that is not enough the Prophet Joel tells us – outward appearance is not enough. God requires inward change. And so we, a people of hope, will spend the next 40 days in reflection entering our own desert. Looking at who we are as individuals, as members of families, as members of this worshiping community known as Blessed Sacrament. We will search our soul for the times we have been less than what we are called to be—the times we have not been the face of Christ to the stranger, to our neighbor and we will offer those short falls to God and ask his forgiveness and the greatest thing will happen – That forgiveness will be given to us.

We can start again! I love this day! For it is a day of second chances – it is a day to begin deepening our relationship with God. It is the day we can start to Change who we have become into who God has meant for us to be.

In a few moments we will come forward to receive the cross of Ashes, we will be asked the question: “Will you turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel?” A question makes necessary an answer – How will you answer that question when the minister asks it to you? Even if this is the first time you have stepped foot inside a church since last Ash Wed. or you 365th time make your answer to this question a passionate wish to make this the first step in a long series of steps back to the God who loves you, calls you by name and claimed you as his own through the blood of his son and the waters of your Baptism.

Return to God with your whole heart today and wear the sign of ashes as the seal of the covenant you make with your God this very moment. Make this a new beginning in your relationship, as I will make it a new beginning in mine, to the God you loves you and calls you to him.

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