Homily for Friday after Ash Wednesday

There’s plenty going on here this evening. The first of the Station Masses that will lead us to Holy Week. The opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The Way of the Cross. Prayer today especially for the victims of abuse. In a moment three catechumens will take a further step towards Easter and then we will move into the Liturgy of the Eucharist. And hopefully, this can all be rounded off by some social time together.

It’s no bad way of keeping a February evening in Aberdeen!

We all worry too much. I certainly do. Scripture is always telling us to quieten our souls and trust in the Lord. St Therese of Lisieux was on to this. St Faustina taught us to say, Jesus I trust in you. Padre Pio would say, Pray, hope and don’t worry. A contemporary of Padre Pio’s, from Naples, the Servant of God Dolindo Ruotolo passed on a prayer he received from Christ himself and that has spread far and wide: “Lord Jesus, I give myself to you; you take over.” God knows, there’s enough to worry about: in our own circles, our own country, the world. We’re all aware how today is the first anniversary of the terrible war in Ukraine. But the Lord says again and again, unwearyingly, through the Scriptures, through the saints, Don’t worry, but trust. And when we manage that, however fleetingly, we begin to see differently, contemplation blossoms, we see how the Lord is at work, how every hair of our head been counted, how even the sparrows are in his hand. And the saints say too that the Lord loves to be so trusted.

When we trust, we see. And so tonight, we are given to see. Here and now. To see the Lord among us, the Lord at work. “My Father is working still and I am working”, Jesus once said. Just to ponder, like our Lady, on the action of God, expands our hearts. God is in action. It’s he who brings together. By the power of the Holy Spirit, he’s drawing us all closer to himself and his Son, and closer to one another. The Church is appearing before our eyes. Even here and tonight, in varied ways in our varied selves, “with humble and contrite hearts”, we’re being drawn to the forgiveness of sins through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, or through the Easter baptism L., M. and K. are preparing for. We’re all being led into the Paschal mystery. And the Paschal mystery is a person; it is Christ, who opened his arms on the Cross and revealed the Resurrection. There’s something so radiant here, as there will be even more at the Easter Vigil. We are being called to be close to each other as God’s people, close in prayer to those who have suffered the isolating power of abuse, close in fasting and almsgiving to the hungry and otherwise afflicted. We’re being called out of self-absorption. “Cry, and the Lord will answer; call, and he will say, ‘I am here’”. Whatever our or others’ pain, that “I am here” holds true. And if we hold to it, we will see the Presence, and the light will lengthen in our souls as it is doing in nature.

What does the Holy Spirit give us to see on an evening like this?  To echo the Gospel, isn’t it the coming together of Christ the Bridegroom and his Bride the Church? Isn’t this what the Liturgy is? May we sense it and see it and be drawn into it. In the Byzantine Liturgy, Orthodox and Catholic, Holy Week is also called the Week of the Bridegroom. The Morning Prayer of the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week is called “Bridegroom Matins”, icons of Christ on trial and crowned with thorns are called icons of the Bridegroom, as are icons of his being taken down from the Cross. And on Easter morning, the words are heard: “Christ comes forth from the tomb like a bridegroom from the bridal chamber and fills the women with joy!”

Let’s not squander Lent. Let’s not allow anxiety or anger to feed on us. On our way to Easter, let’s come together from our parishes around the Sacraments. Let’s remember Christ’s Passion. Let’s give the support of presence and prayer to our chosen catechumens, to those already baptised, seeking full communion with the Catholic Church. Let’s approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation and be mindful of the sick and the dying, the breadless and homeless, the war-torn and bereaved. And then the Lord will see us as his Church, as his Bride, blessed with a beauty we never imagined.

Station Mass, St Mary’s Aberdeen, 24 February 2023


RC Diocese of Aberdeen Charitable Trust.
A registered Scottish Charity Number SC005122