Vol: 44, No.16 ASH WEDNESDAY ( A) March 01 2017  
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 11:24-27)

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.
In the New Testament, “contrition” as well as “repentance” translates the Greek word metanoia. But there are a number of other words or phrases that are used to describe the same reality. “Return”, “a remorseful spirit, a broken

and contrite heart”, and “a sorrow according to God” that leads to change of spirit are some descriptions that find expression in the biblical language. The Council of Trent describes repentance as “the sorrow of the soul and the detestation of the sin committed, together with the resolve not to sin anymore.” The Council insists that repentance “implies not only cessation from sin and the resolve and beginning of a new life, but also the shedding of the old.” As we begin the season of Lent let us use the opportunity for inner purification and to open a new chapter in our spiritual life. (Pause)
(The Penitential Rite and the Gloria are omitted, and the Distribution of Ashes takes its place.)
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 m ay 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
“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 gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and repents of evil.
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