February 26, 2020

Today, Ash Wednesday 2020 as we come forward for ashes we hear the words: ‘Repent, and believe in the gospel.’ An outward sign is made on our foreheads but really this ritual has nothing to do with the external and visible. In the gospel we get a clear indication of this when Jesus advises his disciples that if you want to pray ‘go to your inner room.’ I live ‘within’ as a human person and when I enter therein I am in touch with who I really am. Yes, it is the case that as human beings we are all somewhat like those icebergs in that only 10% of us is only visible! The rest of us lies hidden and underneath. So, in the drama of life we can easily end up mistaking the part for the whole. St Augustine in The Confessions asked ‘but who am I, what am I?’ He speaks about plunging the depths within himself and letting go of ‘sweet frivolities’ because he says only then did the Lord enter in ‘to take their place.’ He says ‘you [Lord] who are lovelier that any pleasure…more lustrous than any light, yet more inward than is any secret intimacy’ entered me ‘within.’ Augustine describes the effects of going to the inner room as freeing his mind ‘from the gnawing need to seek advancement.’ He says ‘I chattered away to you, my glory, my wealth, my salvation, and my Lord and God.’ May St Augustine’s experience mirror our own of going to the inner room this Lent 2020. Amen.

Fr. John McNerney

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