Ash Wednesday – Homily

Ash Wednesday
Joel 2:12-18
Psalm 51:304, 5-6ab, 12-13,14 and 17
2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
February 22, 2023

What are we doing here today?  It’s the middle of the week.  We go to church on Sunday.  Why are we here in the middle of the week?

Of course, it is because it is Ash Wednesday.  We are here to receive ashes. It is what we do.  However, it needs to be more than just what we do.  We need to ask ourselves why. 

In a few weeks we will celebrate the Easter Triduum.  We will start the Triduum with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday.  This year that falls on April 6th.  Then Good Friday will come followed by the Easter Vigil.  These will be celebrated over three days but need to be understood as one event.  It is the most important time of the year.

Since it is so important, we have the season of Lent to prepare ourselves.  Lent begins today.

Still, why are we here?  Jesus tells us to pray in secret, to give alms in secret, to fast in secret.  Today is a day of fasting as we reflect on our sins.  We fast as a sign of our repentance for our sins.

We are here together when Jesus says to do these things in secret. 

We must pay careful attention to Jesus’ words at the beginning of this passage.  He tells his disciples, “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them.”  We are not to come here to show off.  Who would we show off to?  Everyone here is a sinner just like us.  No, we do not come here together in order for people to see us here.

We do it to show God and to show ourselves that we acknowledge that we are sinners who need to repent and be forgiven.

We come together hearing the command of the Lord to “proclaim a fast.”  Our fasting is a sign of us letting go of worldly things to focus on God. 

Through Joel, the Lord told us to “call an assembly; Gather the people.”  Jesus told us to pray in private.  Does that mean we ignore these words found in the Book of the Prophet Joel?  Did Jesus throw out what we read in Joel?

Why would the Lord tell anyone to “call an assembly?”  We come together to pray for one another.  We are on a journey but we do not make the journey alone.  We are called to support and care for one another.  We don’t have to do it alone.  We aren’t supposed to do it alone.  We have Jesus and the Holy Spirit but we also have each other.

We might feel alone in our sins.  That’s because mortal sin breaks relationships.  We are all sinners in need of God’s mercy. 

We are all called to make our return to the Lord with “fasting, and weeping, and mourning.”  We weep as we recognize how our sins have offended God who is all-loving.  We mourn as we realize that our sins have broken our relationship with God. 

In the Old Testament people would rend their garments and put on sackcloth and ashes as a sign of their repentance. 

God does not want us to rend our garments.  He wants us to rend our hearts to return to him. 

However, we do put on ashes.

Why?  Where did the ashes come from in the Old Testament?  The ashes came from the burnt offerings the people sacrificed to God.  Today our ashes come from the burning of palms that were blessed last year as we began Holy Week, commemorating Jesus sacrificing his own life for our sins. 

Now it is time to bless our ashes and then come forth to receive the ashes as a sign of our repentance.  God forgives those who seek his mercy. 

Paul speaks of how we are called to be “ambassadors for Christ.”  Today we are ambassadors as we acknowledge our sins, showing God’s mercy to the world.


  1. Thank you Father for sharing this homily. I enjoyed reading it very much. Your homilies were always interesting when you were at St. Luke ‘s Parish. I hope that everything is going well for you Father. I am doing alright. Thanks be to God. Miss you. If you are ever out this way Father, please get in touch and maybe we can get together for lunch. It would be nice to see you. Stay well. God bless you

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