Clothing therefore tells the story of inner and outer worth. It is a symbol of lost innocence, a memento of former glory. There are therefore two fashions: the passing fashion of the world and the enduring fashion of the spiritual. In the final reckoning it will not matter how we are dressed on the outside; one can go into the Kingdom of Heaven in rags; but it makes an eternity of difference as to how we are dressed on the inside
There are three different ways in which we may judge others: with our passions, our reason, and our faith. Our passions induce us to love those who love us; our reason makes us love all people within certain limits; our faith makes us love everyone, including those who do us harm and are our enemies.
Divinity is so profound that it can be grasped only by the extremes of simplicity and wisdom. There is something in common between the wise and the simple, and that is humility
Today the Church celebrates Ash Wednesday, ‘the beginning of her Lenten journey towards Easter. The entire Christian community is invited to live this period of forty days as a pilgrimage of repentance, conversion and renewal. In the Bible, the number forty is rich in symbolism. It recalls Israel’s journey in the desert: a time of expectation, purification and closeness to the Lord, but also a time of temptation and testing. It also evokes Jesus’ own sojourn in the desert at the beginning of his public ministry, a time of profound closeness to the Father in prayer, but also of confrontation with the mystery of evil. The Church’s Lenten discipline is meant to help deepen our life of faith and our imitation of Christ in his paschal mystery. In these forty days may we draw nearer to the Lord by meditating on his word and example, and conquer the desert of our spiritual aridity, selfishness and materialism. For the whole Church may this Lent be a time of grace in which God leads us, in union with the cruciﬁed and risen Lord, through the experience of the desert to the joy and hope brought by Easter.’
Fasting, repentance, prayer, and the imposition of ashes were not unknown to Jews; that is why we as Christians carry on the tradition. The advice given by the prophet Joel in today’s ﬁrst reading is both wise and salutary as we enter the desert of Lent. It reminds us that, ﬁrst and foremost, we are to recognise our own brokenness, our own sinfulness, our own turning away from a God of Love and Mercy. While we may recognise this, any outward sign is not good enough. There is nothing that we can do in a solely exterior fashion – ripping our clothes, placing ashes upon our foreheads, which will, in itself, make a blind bit of difference. What matters, where it really counts, is on the inside. To rend one’s heart, is to lay ourselves open, to make ourselves vulnerable, and in this openness and vulnerability, to let God do his work.
If there are any of you determined to live a more Christian life, there is one resolution you need to make which is, out of all proportion, more important than the rest. Resolve to pray, to receive the sacraments, to shun besetting sins, to do good works – all excellent resolutions; but more important than any of these is the resolution to repent. The more resolutions you make, the more you will break. But it does not matter how many you break so long as you are resolute not to put off repentance when you break them, but to give yourself up to the mercy which will not despise a broken and a contrite heart. Converted or unconverted, it remains true of you that in you, that is, in your natural being, there dwells no good thing. Saints are not people who store goodness in themselves, they are just a people who do not delay to repent, and whose repentances are honourable.