A homily written and presented during mass on ASH WEDNESDAY February 18th, 2015 by Fr. George Blasick, C.Ss.R.
Father Blasick is an ordained Catholic priest of the order of the “Congregation Of The Most Holy Redeemer”, better known today as the “Redemptorist Fathers” founded by St. Alphonsus Liguori .
"Take care you are not like the hypocrites who come to church a few times per year, making the ashen cross (upon the forehead) more valuable than a good confession of sins and the reception of My Body and Blood; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. Do not do this so that others will see you and call you My disciple. Amen, I say to you, for those who value much the little things and neglect the larger ones, they have already received their reward. But to those who use this day as a beginning -- to give alms in secret, to pray often, to fast with hidden appearance, and to celebrate My Sacraments worthily - these my Father who sees in secret will repay you."
Could these be words which Christ directs toward us? I believe so, even if some might say that they sound judgmental. However, keep this in mind: Christ was making a judgment of character in today's gospel, while speaking to His disciples. There are sinners, there are saints-in-the-making, and then there are the hypocrites who place themselves comfortably in the middle. Where are we?
In the book of Revelation, our Lord says to the Church in Laodicea:
"I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth" (Rev 3: 15-16).
We have no problem whatsoever with Jesus saying this stuff about "those people" centuries ago, about those in 1st Century Palestine and to the seven churches in first three chapter of Revelation. However, let no one dare say that about us, in any fashion! After all, what we want and need, more than anything else, is a Jesus of love and mercy!
Yet, we must not kid ourselves: we are just as sinful in this age as they were then. We can easily turn a blind eye by saying, "What is most important is that I have a relationship with Jesus!" Really? I ask this in reply to such simplistic thinking: what KIND of relationship? The devil has a relationship with Jesus, and it is a very bad one! So does every angel, good and fallen, and so does every human being as well. What is the DESCRIPTION of your relationship? Is it Scriptural or subjective? Holy or sinful? Good or bad? Real or imaginary? Sacrificial or self-deceptive?
Another protest might be, "But I'm a good person!" Perhaps, by human standards you are, but Ash Wednesday and Lent are about assessing ourselves by DIVINE standards. Are you a HOLY person? Are you striving to become a saint? Or do you still allow for spiritual mediocrity in your life--a mediocrity that will get you nowhere fast, which never really challenges you toward conversion (of life), and which allows for complacency and sloth?
Yes, we are called to relationship with Jesus, but that relationship needs to be a RIGHT relationship, a holy relationship+ as Jesus teaches us in the gospels, thru His Apostolic Church. That is the real challenge of this day, that symbol, this Lenten season: to allow Christ to transform EVERYTHING in our lives. "Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold now is the day of salvation." May we all hear His voice today and harden not our lukewarm hearts.