Moment of Conversion
Homily on Ash Wednesday
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent. During this Lenten season, two popular words come to mind: Penitence and Abstinence. We refrain from eating meat as a form of abstinence, and we are encouraged to go to confession for penitence. These and so many other forms of penance and abstinence are meant to bring us into conversion. I believe, at the core of lent is the experience of conversion.
This reminds me of a “touching” experience I have had with my mother as a young boy. One afternoon, I had some quarrels with my siblings and my father. So, in order to express fully my displeasure, I refused to enter our home. In front of our house, there I stage my protest. I kept my post, until it was evening. Then my mother came out of the house and sat beside me and utter these words, “Why are u doing these to us, to me. It hurts me more than the way I almost died giving birth to you. Remember how much I have sacrificed and suffered for you.” What she said hit me deep in the heart. It was all that I need. After that, she took my hand and I followed her inside. That was my moment of conversion.
Conversion in the domain of faith is not simply turning away from sins. It is not only about the experience of sin. Indeed, sin is a reality that should not be ignored. But there is one who came greater than sin, Jesus, who showed us how much the Father has cared and loved us. By Jesus’ obedience, he let us knew of the extent God can suffer and sacrifice for our sake. We have sinned but God comes to sit beside us and tells us, “Remember how much I have sacrificed and suffered for you.” To assure us of his endless love ready to embrace us back. Conversion happens because of God who loves.
Today, ashes will be imposed upon us. Long time ago, as ashes are imposed, these words are said, “Momento homo: Quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.” (Remember Man: you are dust and unto dust you will return). It is frightening. All because, it wants to bring out sorrow in us, that is, sorrow for the sins we have commited. In the Old Testament, the donning of dust or ash is a form of penitence, an expression of sorrow for offenses against God and His people. King David did this, and so the King of Nineveh upon the admonition of the prophet Jonah, and so many others. But this outward marks of are expression of the inner workings of the heart, that is of a contrite heart. Our first reading today, proclaimed the need to translate into action the sorrow of the heart. For this reason, the new words of the imposition of the ashes, “Repent and believe in the Gospel” brings to us more meaning by giving more weight to the need for conversion and the joy that lies beneath, the joy that comes in knowing God who suffers and cares the most for us. In this way we cay say that Lent is a season we celebrate; we celebrate the triumph of love over sin and death.