"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

Wednesday 22 February 2012


            “It is time for the Lord to act, for your law has been broken.” These words from Psalm 118 are not found in today’s Mass but we did pray them during Divine Office earlier this morning. Like most of Psalm 118, because there is so much of it, it tends to go over our heads. However, these are the words with which the Byzantine Liturgy begins, when the deacon invites the priest serving the Mass to sing the opening blessing. They remind us that in the Eucharist, as in all the sacraments, it is the Lord who acts. They remind us, too, as we begin Lent today, that nothing will come of our penances and observance of this holy season, unless we allow the Lord to work his miracle of redemption in each one of us. “It is time for the Lord to act, for your law has been broken.”

            This is why the prophet Joel writes, “Let your hearts be broken, not your garments. Turn to the Lord your God again, for he is all tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in graciousness, ready to relent.” Lent is the time when, in spite of the negligences of other seasons, we turn to God with broken hearts and ask him in his mercy to heal them. Lent is a precious time for conversion and healing. ”Now is the favourable time; this is the day of salvation,” writes St Paul to the Corinthians. In fact, God is so merciful and loving towards us that Paul can say quite categorically, “For our sake God made the sinless one into sin, so that in him we might become the goodness of God.” Salvation doesn’t demand great sacrifices on our part, least of all does God want us to take on exaggerated penances the forty days of Lent. All he wants us to do is open our hearts to him, so that he can do the rest. Salvation is God’s gift to us, not something we can earn or make for ourselves by our own valiant efforts. Holiness comes from our seeking God and allowing him to act in us, not from the pride of self-sufficiency and human calculation. We can’t bribe God with our Lenten observance.

            This is why Jesus, in the Gospel, warns us not to do things that attract the attention of others. Do not give arms, do not pray and do not fast like hypocrites, who can be seen by others and praised for their good lives. No, we are to do everything in secret; only God is to know what we are doing as we seek to follow Christ. Although it is an ancient tradition to place ashes on our heads today, the keeping of Lent is something very private and intimate between God and ourselves. Above all, unless we undergo a change of heart, a real conversion, the whole exercise will prove useless and to no avail. I’m not saying it’s not good to give things up for Lent. I gave up sugar in tea and coffee when I was eleven and I’ve never gone back. Lent is about much more than that, yet the simple giving up of a little thing can be a constant reminder of the essential giving up I should be aiming for, the giving up of my own will. “Thy will be done,” Jesus taught his disciples to pray, and that is the goal of Lent, the goal of the Christian life.

            Now there are many penances and good works to choose from, and all of them good, wholesome and helpful, but I believe that this Lent God is calling us to accept his will and to accept the penance he gives us. It could be something to do with our character and personal weaknesses, accepting ourselves as God’s special gift to us and no one else. It could be accepting someone we live with and share our lives with, someone or something about them, which we hate. As we grow old, and today I’ve become an old age pensioner, it could be about accepting diminishment, sickness or the loss of freedom, that inevitably come to us all, accepting this as God’s will and the very personal and special Way of the Cross he has chosen for each one of us alone.

            As we receive the ashes this morning, we will hear the words, “Remember, Man, that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return.” It would be good to reflect on these words of Scripture. We are dust, dust and ashes, and yet dust and ashes that have been given life through the Spirit of the living God. Passion, Death and Resurrection lie before us as we journey into eternal life. Where Christ has gone, he will surely lead us, in spite of our many sins and shortcomings. We are in his hands. “It is time for the Lord to act, for your law has been broken.” Amen

ASH WEDNESDAY 2012 AT SAN' ANSELMO: (click the big print)  I cannot embed this video of the Pope beginning Lent at the Benedictine abbey in Rome with prayers and procession.   I have added reason to show this because one of the young monks (the men in black!) is a monk of Belmont who is studying in San' Anselmo)    The procession goes to the ancient basilica of Santa Sabina, with its original doors, for the celebration of Mass,   Santa Sabina is in the hands of the Dominicans.

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