Bookmark and Share

March 9, 2011

Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Ash Wednesday Mass
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
March 9, 2011

Dear Friends in Christ,

In the life of the Church, Lent is all about facing the reality of sin in the light of the victory of Christ's Death and Resurrection.

Today, Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, we gather together in the community of the Church, in the name of Jesus. We bow our heads in the spirit of repentance and humbly receive blessed ashes.

Each one of us knows that we are called to acknowledge sin in our lives. At every Mass we admit this reality. In the confiteor we say clearly: "I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do...."

Throughout the centuries of Christianity, Lent has always been a special time to acknowledge sin, to ask God's pardon, and to resolve-with His help-not to sin again. In Lent we express deep sorrow for having offended God and our neighbor as we strive to accept the Gospel invitation of Jesus to prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

The Church offers us today in our responsorial psalm the inspired words of King David that help us to formulate in our own hearts sentiments of personal sorrow for all our sins:

Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
In the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.

For I acknowledge my offense,
and my sin is before me always:
'Against you only have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight.'

A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.

We are all invited to join in the Church's plea: "Be merciful, Lord, for we have sinned."

With repentance for our sins we humbly and confidently ask the forgiveness of God, which comes to us through Christ. We also humbly ask the forgiveness of all those whom we have offended in any way. We likewise beg God to bring about reconciliation and healing in our community.

During this Lent we are especially conscious of the grave sins of sexual abuse committed against minors, in particular by members of the clergy. We experience the need to ask God's forgiveness repeatedly in our liturgy and to offer prayers of reparation for these sins and for all the sins of the world.

Once again, we renew our commitment to make every possible effort to prevent these evil acts and to protect children from harm.

In this spirit, as I announced yesterday, the Archdiocese is having re-examined, cases of concern to the Grand Jury about allegations of abuse of minors or boundary issues of some priests. We are likewise re-evaluating the way we handle allegations. The protection of children is paramount.

Whoever harms a child must remember the words of Jesus: " would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea" (Mt 18:6).

On this Ash Wednesday, as we receive blessed ashes as the sign of our repentance for sin and our resolution to walk in the newness of Christian life, we express once again our sorrow to God for our sins and the sins of others. I personally renew my deep sorrow to the victims of sexual abuse in the community of the Church and to all others, including so many faithful priests, who suffer as a result of this great evil and crime. As priests and people we now begin together - united in Christ - our Lenten journey. This Lenten journey leads us to the Cross of Christ and then on to the victory of His Resurrection.

We are called to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus as we acknowledge His triumph over sin and death. We proclaim that it is only Jesus, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. It is He, Jesus, the crucified and risen Lord, who alone can conquer all evil and lead us to the joy of eternal life. Amen.


Donna M. Farrell
Director of Communications

Back to Top