Let our hearts be broken - Ash Wednesday 2019

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > Let our hearts be broken - Ash Wednesday 2019

The call goes out to us today: “Come back to me with all your heart, fasting, weeping, mourning.”

At this moment the evil of sin within the Church confronts us. Daily we are presented with the failures of the Church in its ministers. We taste the anger of our society towards the Church for the sins of its members. We are stunned, confused, hurt, angry.

And Lent begins. This is a sacred time, it is a time for penance, for mortification, for alms giving, for increased prayer. It is a time in which we are called, as we heard today, to come back to the Lord with all our heart.
“With all our heart.”

“Let your hearts be broken,” the prophet says, “Not your garments torn.” Don’t just make the gestures, but let your heart be torn. Look to your heart, not just to your outward actions. It is not just the ashes on our forehead, but the state of our heart. Look to your heart and do not deny the sin that is there.

Lord, break our stubborn hearts. Tear into our hearts that we can move from complacency to penitence. Bring us to that point when we can weep for our sins. Bring us to that point when we feel acutely the damage our sins have caused. Let us know the full gravity of our faults. Move us from dismissing the seriousness of our sins, to accepting the full consequences of our actions. Let us know the full truth of the evil that we have done.

The reading urges us today to cry out: “Spare your people, Lord.” It is a time to throw ourselves upon the mercy of the Lord. Darkness has come upon us. We are desperate in our confusion and pain. We cry out for mercy. There is nothing we can do to repair the evil we have released by our sins. Give us the grace of a truly contrite heart. 

We plead with God in the words of the prophet, “Do not make your heritage a thing of shame.” Do not let your people suffer the humiliation of being abandoned. May we not feel alone, deserted, vulnerable in our sin. Come to us with your mercy, Lord.

This year, as Lent begins, I would propose one simple thing: Can we offer up our sacrifices this Lent as an act of reparation for the sins of the Church, for the sins of humanity? Can we take on the sins of our brethren and cry out to God on their behalf?

Repentance for our sins leads us to be aware of the broader reality of sin that is all around us. During this Lent we want to be moved to a place of genuine repentance.

The Catechism says (1431): "Interior repentance is a radical reorientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with our whole heart, an end of sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions we have committed.... At the same time it entails the desire and resolution to change one's life, with hope in God's mercy and trust in the help of his grace."

May our hearts be broken and not just our garments torn. Lord, grant us the grace of a genuine repentance for our sins.

Having been moved to humbly embrace a genuine repentance for our sins we want to offer ourselves and our acts of mortification to be some small act of clearing the sin that is all around us. We offer ourselves in reparation for the evil that has harmed the lives of people. We are prepared to absorb the sin that has been committed around us. We do not stand aloof from the evil that dwells in our midst. We are part of this sin and we seek to be instruments of reparation. 

And so our acts of mortification seek the mercy of God not only for us, but for the whole world.

In this Lent let us say again and again and again, “Let my heart be broken and not just my garments torn.”

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Wednesday, 6 March 2019