Ash Wednesday: ‘Return to the Lord with your whole heart’

Laura Keener, Editor.

A large crowd attended Ash Wednesday Mass, Feb. 26, at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, Covington. Bishop Roger Foys was the main celebrant. Concelebrating and distributing ashes were Father Ryan Maher, rector and vicar general; Father Daniel Schomaker, vicar general; Father Michael Norton, vocations promoter; and Father Joseph Shelton, administrative assistant to the Bishop.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a season of penance and prayer. During the Mass, ashes — symbolizing the dust from which God created man — are placed in the form of a cross on the foreheads of the faithful. The priest says the words, “Remember man that you are dust and to dust you shall return” or a new form, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.”

In his homily, Bishop Foys said that the words of the prophet Joel proclaimed in the day’s first reading summarize the season of Lent, “Even now return to the Lord with your whole heart.” (2:12)

“Repent means to turn from,” Bishop Foys said. “We turn from something so we can turn to something. In Lent we turn from anything and everything that is a distraction from our relationship with the Lord and we turn to the Lord.”

Bishop Foys shared a list of 15GreatWaysToFastDuringLent that someone had shared with him. Some included: fast from anger and hatred, give your family extra love; fast from division, strive to be in unity with everyone; fast from low self-esteem, pessimism and negativity, be positive in your outlook on life.

On the 14th Great Way to Fast, “fast from too much of the world, give extra time to Jesus,” Bishop Foys affirmed Pope Francis’ recommendation for Lent given at his general audience that day.

“Pope Francis … told people to turn off their television and open their Bible. Spend less time on social media and more time in prayer or with others — fast from the world,” he said.

Bishop Foys acknowledged that he, too, is distracted by modern technology, especially his iPhone. He shared that when his first Screen Time notification reported the number of hours he had spent on his phone that week he was “embarrassed.”

“I thought this has to be for someone else, I don’t spend that much time on my phone,” he said. “I was horrified at that, to think all that time I could have been doing something productive. I could have been praying, I could have been visiting someone who is ill or just having a conversation — an uninterrupted conversation — with someone else.

“It’s a distraction. I would echo what the Holy Father said at his audience — put it (cell phone) aside.”
Bishop Foys said that he hoped the 15 Great Ways to Fast for Lent would inspire others like it has inspired him.

“It spoke to me and talked to me about things I need to set straight, things that would really make a difference in my life and in the lives of others,” he said. “Joel hit the nail on the head, ‘Return to the Lord with your whole heart.’ To return to one thing you have to put other things aside. What could be more important than turning to the Lord?”