Ash Wednesday 2011

On Ash Wednesday the Most Reverend Patrick Kelly, Archbishop of Liverpool, celebrated two lunchtime Masses at the busy Blessed Sacrament Shrine in Liverpool's City Centre.  He blessed and distributed ashes to the congregations at the 12.10 pm and 1.10 pm Masses.

In his homily he reminded the congregation that in spite of current economic and international difficulties the message of Lent remains: ‘God made the sinless one into sin so that in him we might become the goodness of God.’

During the afternoon the Archbishop presided at a 3.00 pm celebration of Evening Prayer with priests of the Archdiocese in the Crypt Chapel of the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King.

Homily preached by the Most Reverend Patrick Kelly, Archbishop of Liverpool, at Masses on Ash Wednesday, 9 March 2011, at 12.10 pm and 1.10 pm in the Blessed Sacrament Shrine, Liverpool.

I begin with these words of Jesus to the religious leaders of his day: ‘They bind up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger.’

Burdens, hard to bear. There are those burdens that always touching us or those dear to us; remember Hamlet’s words:

‘The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
the sea of troubles,
the heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks
that flesh is heir to.’

But as Lent begins this year we must add: rising prices of fuel, food: redundancies; the effects on so many as services that ease burdens are cut back. Fears for loved ones in Afghanistan. This is not an Ash Wednesday for a religious leader, who would be attentive to Our Lord, to pile up burdens of guilt and penance: to heap misery on misery.

So no gloomy looks, no smug alms-giving that looks down on others, no self-satisfied showy prayer.

But this and only this: ‘God made the sinless one into sin so that in him we might become the goodness of God.’

Yes, sound the trumpet, proclaim a solemn assembly, call the people together; for the Lord is all tenderness and compassion, slow to anger and rich in graciousness.

And through Lent and Holy Week we shall become goodness of God. Many problems defy our attempts to solve them, but the Lord says to us: always and everywhere you will accomplish that which is good, wholesome, gracious, beautiful: my Father never ceases to call you to new and more abundant life. And that is no burden, but joy, gladness and peace in the power of the Holy Spirit.