Lent - Ash Wednesday 2018
Ss. Peter & Paul - Danville
Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year. The day after Thanksgiving, when it seems the whole world goes shopping. Nearly 30% of all annual retail sales are made on that single day. In the United States 100 million people go shopping on Black Friday. Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year. Today is Catholicism’s Black Friday.
More people come to Church on Ash Wednesday than either Easter or Christmas. Some estimates say that upwards of 90% of people who identify themselves as Catholics always or often come to Church on Ash Wednesday. But consider this: among those who consider themselves Catholic, about half say they never go to Confession. Not once a month or once a year – never.
In a parish of 500 families – 500 families – I hear Confessions 1 hour a week. The average Confession takes, let’s say 8 minutes; at 8 minutes per confession that’s roughly 390 confessions per year. 90% of the confessions I hear are folks I see once every couple of weeks, so 350 of those confessions are the same 15-20 people. In total, about 60 people from our parish go to Confession at least once a year…in a parish of 500 families.
In round numbers, 90% of us come to Church on Ash Wednesday, but only 10% of us ever go to Confession. Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year by far – folks who never go shopping go shopping on Black Friday. Today is our Black Friday. Ash Wednesday is the busiest Church day of the year by far. Folks who never come to Confession come to Church on Ash Wednesday. You know what I want to say to that?
I’m glad you’re here. I’m glad you’re here. Whether I see you every day or every week or sometimes or never, I’m glad you’re here. I’m glad you’re here to Repent and believe in the Gospel – one of the things we hear when receiving our ashes. I’m glad you’re here to Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return the other thing we can hear when receiving ashes. I’m glad you’re here to acknowledge that, like me, you are in need of God’s love, mercy and forgiveness. I’m glad you’re here to join us in blowing the trumpet, as the First Reading exclaims. Let’s blow the trumpet, proclaim the fast, call an assembly – let’s gather the people and notify the congregation. We’ll assemble the elders, gather the children and the infants. I’m glad you’re here, because just like those priests in that first reading, I will spend every ounce of energy in this fat, tired ole body to weep before God and pray, “Spare, O Lord, Your people!”
You see, friends – it doesn’t matter whether you’ve made your confession faithfully every month or every week, or if it’s been so long you can’t even remember how to do it. It doesn’t matter, because what matters most is that today you’re here to acknowledge that you need God’s love, mercy and forgiveness. And God is here, begging you – God is here begging you, saying, “Return to me with your whole heart!” Our God is a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment. If you turn back to Him, He will welcome you back. I’m glad you’re here!
Today – today is what matters friends. And today – today I implore you with St. Paul; I implore you on behalf of Jesus Christ, who loved us and gave Himself for us. I beg you – I beg you to “be reconciled to God.”
Friends – I’m glad you’re here. And I don’t care how long it’s been since you’ve made your confession. I don’t care if you can’t do anything but walk in the door of the Confessional and say “Father, I’m here – I don’t know what to do but I’m here, and I want to be forgiven.” I’m glad you’re here and I don’t care how long it’s been since you’ve been to confession, I’m glad you’re here so you can hear me say, “Behold…now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation.”
Friends, I’m glad you’re here. Because you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t believe that you were a sinner in need of a Savior. I know you believe that. What I most want to say to you is this: Let Jesus save you! Make your confession this Lent. Let Jesus wash the ashes of sin and death away in the Sacrament of Reconciliation this Lent. Promise me you’ll do it – right now…promise me…promise Jesus…promise yourself.
Be merciful O Lord, for we have sinned.
Pray it with me now, in your heart – pray with me:
O wash me more and more from my guilt
and cleanse me from my unrighteousness.
My offenses, truly I know them;
my sin is always before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned –
what is evil in your sight I have done.
That you may be justified when you give sentence
and be without reproach when you judge,
O see, in guilt I was born,
a sinner was I conceived.
Indeed, you love truth in the heart –
then in the secret of my heart teach me wisdom.
O purify me, then I shall be clean –
wash me, I shall be whiter than snow.
Make me hear rejoicing and gladness,
that the bones you have crushed may revive.
From my sin turn away your face,
and blot out all my guilt.
A pure heart create for me, O God –
put a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
nor deprive me of your Holy Spirit.
Give me again the joy of your help,
with a spirit of fervor sustain me,
that I may teach transgressors your ways
and sinners may return to you.
O rescue me, God, my helper,
and my tongue shall ring out your goodness.
O Lord, open my lips
and my mouth shall declare your praise.
For in sacrifice you take no delight,
burnt offering from me you would refuse;
my sacrifice, a contrite spirit.
A humble, contrite heart you will not spurn.
In the confessional – that is where we present God with a humble, contrite heart – a heart He will not spurn.
Yes friend, I’m glad you’re here. That’s what matters today. Not yesterday, or how long it’s been since you’ve been here, or how long it’s been since you’ve been to Confession. Today – today is what matters, and today you’re here! Let Jesus save you! Make your confession this Lent. Let Jesus wash the ashes of sin and death that you’re about to receive, let Him wash them away in the Sacrament of Reconciliation this Lent. Promise me you’ll do it – right now…promise me…promise Jesus…promise yourself. Now is the acceptable time…now is the day of salvation.
Today is our Black Friday. Ash Wednesday is our Black Friday, and I’m so glad you’re here.