Vol: 43, No.15 ASH WEDNESDAY ( C) February 10 2016  
You are merciful to all, O Lord, and despise nothing that you have made. You overlook people’s sins, to bring them to repentance, and you spare them, for you are the Lord our God (Wis 11:24,25,27).

Dear brothers and sisters, today we begin a spiritual journey of 40 days in preparation for the celebration of Easter. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the 40-day liturgical period of prayer, fasting and abstinence. In biblical language 40 is a symbolic number expressing a fairly long period of time. According to the Synoptic Gospels Jesus spent 40 days in the desert in fasting and prayer, where he endured temptation by Satan. Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of the faithful as a celebration and reminder of human mortality, and as a sign of mourning and repentance to God. The ashes used are typically gathered from the burning of the palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday. Ash Wednesday is a day of fasting, abstinence and repentance; it is a day of contemplating one’s transgressions.
Ashes were used in ancient times to express mourning. Imposing oneself with ashes was the penitent’s way of expressing sorrow for sins and faults. An ancient example of one expressing one’s penitence is found in Job 42:5-6. Job says to God: “I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eyes see thee; therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

The prophet Jeremiah calls for repentance this way: “O daughter of my people, gird on sackcloth, roll in the ashes” (Jer 6:26). The prophet Daniel recounted pleading to God as follows: “I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and supplications with fasting, sackcloth and ashes” (Dan 9:3).
The season of Lent will culminate in the celebration of the Lord’s resurrection. Let us begin it with all earnestness and by giving up those things that trouble us, for example, a habit that has become addictive or a strained relationship that we want to repair and take forward. Lent offers us a possibility for doing this and therefore let us not waste this God-given opportunity but try and make maximum benefit. (Pause)
Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting this campaign of Christian service, so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns....
(Prophet Joel invites the people to return to the Lord who is gracious and merciful).
A reading from the Book of Joel (2:12­-18)
“Yet, even now,” says the Lord, “Return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.”
Return to the Lord, your God, for he is
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