Ash Wednesday Homily

posted 28 Feb 2020, 03:47 by Parish Office

Ash Wednesday 2020 (26/2/20)


Here we are again – it’s Ash Wednesday, the very first day of Lent.  Just another thirty-nine days to go.  What are you going to do, or not do, this Lent?  The same as last year?  Something different?  Who knows, maybe after you’ve heard what I’m about to say, you might decide to change your plans.


First, let’s be a bit technical.  Lent employs the technique of “delayed gratification”.  In simple terms, it means that we put off an instant reward now for the sake of a better reward later on.  In the Gospel, Jesus speaks of not seeking reward from the people around us now by our prayer, fasting and almsgiving, for the sake of a greater reward later on from God.  Acting in this way is in itself a form of self-denial:  rather than seeking the pleasure of attention-seeking, I hold back for the sake of something better later on.  It’s a bit like when you give up chocolate for Lent:  after Lent is over and Easter arrives, you enjoy chocolate more than you did before Lent started.


Self-denial teaches us something important as well.  We won’t fall apart by not having any chocolate, sweets, coffee, or any of the other things that it is better for us to get rid from our lives, such as sin in general, or perhaps something specific, such as being grumpy.


So, what have you chosen to do or to give up for Lent?  Don’t just go for the easy ones, like, “I’ll give up meat”.

Yes, but you’re a vegetarian.

“Okay then, I’ll give up smoking”.

Yes, but you’ve never smoked in your life.  How about something from today’s Gospel:  “Do not put on a gloomy look.”  That means don’t be grumpy.

“But I like being grumpy.  It’s part of who I am.”

Well stop it.  Stop being grumpy, and what’s more, stop enjoying being grumpy.  Take pleasure in being better company and giving other people a good day.

“But if I try and stop being grumpy, I’ll fail.  Five minutes after leaving church, I’ll get to the bus station, realise I’ve missed my bus and then be grumpy, and I’ll take it out on the next person I see.”

Now, I didn’t say Lent would be easy.  But maybe, as we get further through Lent, you might find it easier with practice.  And maybe, possibly (it might not happen), but maybe the grumpiness could be transformed into something else instead.  A different form of release.  How about a dry sense of humour?  Go on, give it a try.  “Knowing my luck, the next bus will be cancelled.  Or we’ll just get out the bus station and it will break down.”  Okay, so you’re starting, but keep on working at it.


So what are you going to tackle this Lent?  Go on, be ambitious.  You might not succeed.  You might fail.  You might fail quite a few times.  But you might also make at least a bit of progress.  And it might have lasting effects later on.  And who knows?  Maybe you might be able to store up treasure in heaven, and receive your reward later on.  Delayed gratification is a good thing.  At the very least, if it makes us better company, then we can’t grumble about that.