Ash Wednesday 

            “Return to me with all your heart.” This is God’s desire expressed in today’s first reading from the Book of the Prophet Joel. To return to the Lord “with all one’s heart,” means taking the path of conversion. Conversion goes to the heart of the matter… and the heart of the matter is the matter of the heart.

            In his homily during one Ash Wednesday, Pope Francis said, “Conversion is a spiritual journey that reaches the deepest place of our self.” “The heart, in fact, is the seat of our sentiments, the center in which our decisions and our attitudes mature.”

            Pope Francis reminds us, “The Lord never ceases to have mercy on us, and desires to offer us his forgiveness yet again, inviting us to return to him with a new heart, purified from evil, to take in his joy.” How to accept the Lord’s invitation? St. Paul, in today’s second reading, tells us, “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” This Lenten season should be a time for us to be reconciled with God. Reconciliation between us and God is possible, thanks to the mercy of the Father – who, out of love for us, did not hesitate to sacrifice his only Son.

            St. Francis Xavier says, “The world is full of closed doors.” “Some of them are in our hearts.” “Some of them are in other people.” “We have to open as many of these closed doors.” Let us open the closed door of our heart with the key of God’s loving mercy.

            Let us end with a prayer: Lord God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Forgive me for rejecting your love by my selfishness and sinfulness. Give me a heart that is hungry for you – a heart that desires your forgiveness. Embrace me with your love, fill me with your mercy, and enable me to share your loving mercy with those around me. Amen.

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