We hear so much about wars and the rumors of war, of confrontations and rebellions, of civil unrest and the open hostility of brother against brother that I not only get tired of the talk but overwhelmed at the hatred and anger found in the human condition. That is one reason why I found the Collect prayer for Ash Wednesday to have jarred my peaceful approach to this sacred season. The prayer, if you were not a Mass today, says that "as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons ...", but then the kind of weapons was mentioned - not of mass destruction, or of death and ethnic cleansing, but the weapons "of self-restraint". This is the kind of weapon that can only be used against the powers of evil, a weapon of love over hate, respect over prejudice, peace and forgiveness over injustice and anger.
Lent is about the inner struggle within humanity, the human dimension versus the divine reality of mercy and love. It is about soul searching, about clearing out the cobwebs, about facing the reality of our sinfulness and in that sinfulness our nothingness without God, and about repenting. It is a strategic campaign that leads to glory. The same Collect prayer says right before the above quote " ... that as we begin with holy fasting this campaign of Christian service ..." we may be granted that self-restraint. Notice that the battle campaign is one of Christian service. It is not about us, but rather about others. It is the embracing of the command of charity and love that is the message of Jesus. Our Holy Father addresses this in his homily today (I'll speak of that tomorrow). For tonight, having signed a host of God's people at three services today with ashes and reminding them that this signing was not for others to see but for them to ponder their nothingness apart from God, it is time to close - but with the heartfelt hope that this Lent be a time of untold blessings for you in your prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Happy Lent.