This Ash Wednesday was my third here in the parish, and my first time to distribute ashes and pray with parishioners in person. I don’t ever remember being so happy to begin Lent! I shared with the congregation that I once gave up sugar for Lent and when Easter came around, I just didn’t need to go back to spooning sweetness into every hot drink, I’d lost the taste for it. I also had to admit that having tried to take the Lenten message, “Turn away from sin and believe the Good News” seriously, the reality is I found it easier to give up sugar than sin! Accepting that we are weak, and fall often, makes it all the more likely that we will seek and find the merciful God who forgives our sins and helps us grow in holiness. So, on this First Sunday of Lent take time to discern what God is asking of you, and all of us this year.

The other aspect of Ash Wednesday was trying to respond to the invitation of Pope Francis to fast and pray for the people in Ukraine. The news cycle is frightening, the images of people suffering the effects of war are unbearable to watch. We see tanks and cruise missiles, people packed onto trains and in underground shelters, civilians bloodied and broken, bright lights in the night sky and deafening explosions. We admire the courage of the people whose country has been invaded, but whose hearts and minds are brave and courageous. But what to do?

One class I visited with Ashes, were already collecting for medical supplies, showing the compassion and solidarity that can be found even among children.

I’m sure in the weeks ahead we will have many opportunities to turn Lenten Alms into practical ways of assistance.