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Ash Wednesday – 2014

Abbey Crucifix

Homily by Abbot Peter McCarthy: 3-05-2014

Even now says the Lord,

Return to me with your whole heart… 

     The Hebrew prophets knew deeply, that one thing the Lord and Israel did share – was a passionate “homing” instinct.  El Shaddai sought passionately and consistently to make his home within Israel, and Israel too – not as consistently – longed to make her home with the Lord.  And so… in this rich prophetic tradition… at the very heart of this Gospel for Ash Wednesday is Jesus’ call to that “intimate “,  “secret place” at the center of our lives.

But when you pray, go to your inner room, close

The door, and pray to your Father in secret. 

     Another Rabbi, in the Hebrew Prophetic tradition of our own day, Abraham Joshua Heschel, has written:

“Prayer is not a stratagem for occasional use, a refuge to resort to now and then. It is rather like an established residence for the innermost self. All things have a home: the bird has a nest, the fox has a hole, the bee has a hive. A soul without prayer is a soul without a home. Weary, sobbing, the soul, after roaming through a world festered with aimlessness, seeks a moment in which to gather up its scattered life… in which to call for help without being a coward. Such a home is prayer. For the soul, home is where prayer is.” 

So wherever we find ourselves this Ash Wednesday morning, my brothers & sisters, centered or scattered, accompanied or abandoned, confident in faith or sunk in doubt, innocent or guilty (as sin), wherever we find ourselves… The Lenten Season is that time when we are once again invited – encouraged – to make our home in Him – who longs to be at home with us – and the way home is simple:

What is a soul without prayer?  (Asks Rabbi Heschel)  A soul runaway or a soul evicted from its own home.

To those who have abandoned their home – the road may be dark –

Yet do not be afraid to turn back!

We are ambassadors for Christ, writes St. Paul in his 2nd letter to the Corinthians this morning,

As if God were appealing to you through us.

We implore you on behalf of Christ,

Be reconciled to God.

+ Abbot Peter McCarthy



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