The weather this winter has been a little strange; the impact of the sex abuse scandal in the church is far reaching; and the continued rancor and infighting in Washington have all made headlines. They may leave us scratching our heads and wondering if there is something positive that can have an impact on us. Maybe all of this is good preparation for Lent.

Lent begins on Wednesday, Ash Wednesday. That’s the day when ashes are imposed on our foreheads to remind us that we are sinners and in need of a redeemer. They also remind us that the next 40 days are meant to help us take a serious look at our lives to see what we need to improve upon or change so that we can be a better reflection of the Lord Jesus. Ashes are not a status symbol, but a call to conversion and serious work in our lives so that we can radiate the love of Christ for one another.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is reminding us that it is easier for us to criticize each other than it is to recognize our own faults. We have to remember that we are all sinners and in need of conversion. While each one of us may be different, the call to holiness is always the same. When each of us recognizes our own faults, and acknowledges that we are in need of Christ’s healing touch, then the faults of others don’t matter. Once we can admit this, then our healing begins and we can offer that same healing to others. Lent reminds us that even though we are sinners we are not bad people and should not think of ourselves as that. We are all created by God and have an equal opportunity to experience his presence in our lives as well as his gentle, healing touch.

Conversion is always difficult because it means we have to turn our focus from ourselves to our God, who always calls us to goodness and holiness. As such, we are called to follow the example of Jesus and our words, attitudes and actions have to be consistent with who we are and what we believe. As Jesus invites us to “come, and see; come, and experience his presence” then he sends us forth not just to bring the Good News to others but to be the Good News for all those we meet. Then, we are able to help build the kingdom of God on earth.

Hopefully, Lent will give us a better sense of God’s love for us, who we are as God’s people, and the work that still needs to be done in bringing God’s kingdom closer to others.

HAPPY MARDI GRAS!!!
~ FR. JOE

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