Ash Wednesday begins the solemn season of Lent in preparation for the celebration of Easter when we set our minds and hearts on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. On Feb. 17, we embark on our 40 days of spiritual journey in preparation for the celebration of Easter with an inventory of our life and relationship with God severed by our sinful transgressions of unfaithfulness, disobedience and ingratitude and respond to his call of conversion and repentance.
During this season, we reflect on the infinite love of God for us and his gift of salvation by focusing more on God and less on ourself. The exhortation we hear on Ash Wednesday is “Turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel,” reminding us of our sinfulness. This is God’s constant invitation to repentance and reconciliation through prayer, fasting and almsgiving. As the priest or other minister traces the ashes on our forehead, he tells us to “Remember you are dust and unto dust you will return,” instilling in our minds the reality of our mortality and the urgency for the conversion of our hearts, transformation of our lives and reconciliation with God.
Our Lenten theme for 2021 is “Renewing Faith, Hope and Love.” It begins by recognizing our weaknesses and sinfulness brought about by worldly allurements, distracting us to neglect our prayers, concentrate more on our personal preoccupations and become indifferent to God’s presence in our life. Now is the chance to correct, change, purify ourselves and strengthen our spiritual life by filling our hearts with the gifts of God’s love to be able resist evil, turn away from sin and once again walk toward his loving and saving embrace.
In conjunction with Pope Francis’ proclamation of 2021 as the Year of St. Joseph, the protector of Jesus, the Church offers us a Christian model in St. Joseph during our spiritual pilgrimage. His exemplary virtues can inspire us to receive abundant graces and to encourage one another by our words and deeds as we pursue the path to holiness.
Due to the current coronavirus pandemic, we will observe, like the other dioceses all over the world, the protocol described below, issued by the Vatican Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments on Jan. 12. For health and safety reasons, the faithful will experience some changes in our celebration of Ash Wednesday and the distribution of the ashes. However, the significance of Lent remains. It is still a scared moment to reflect on the Paschal Mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection in order to renew our faith, hope and love so we become true children of God and faithful disciple of Christ.
Have a grace-filled Lenten season!