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Abbot Patrick’s Ash Wednesday Homily

I am told that babies born this year could live to be 120. Most people’s reaction to this possibility is: ‘If I’d known I was going to live that long I’d have looked after myself a bit better in the first place.’ Well, that is what lent is all about: looking after yourself a bit better. We are fragile human beings and we have to prepare ourselves for everlasting life. Lent is preparation for Easter, the runway to resurrection. And we are not talking about living for 120 years; we are talking about living forever.

Living forever with God requires three things: first, getting to know God as an intimate friend, so that living with God becomes the greatest desire of my heart; the second is getting myself fit for eternity, getting my body in trim, pruning the branches that are holding me back. Finally, it means getting a heart transplant: I swop the heart of stone which is in me, for a heart of flesh. This happens by eating the flesh of Jesus Christ and drinking His blood, as we are about to do now in this Eucharist. In this way I become like him and I begin to love as he loves. These three things we call prayer, fasting and almsgiving in an older dispensation. Prayer is loving God; fasting is giving up whatever is holding me back; almsgiving is opening my heart to those around me.

Wonderfully made of dust and ashes as we are, we have still more wonderfully been called to our Father’s house in heaven. Lent is a time to learn how to cope with eternity and infinity.  It is a time to train ourselves for infinite spaces, for eternal vistas. May we arrive at the end of this lent at least one ball and chain lighter than when we started, so that we can more easily rise from the dead into the infinite freedom of Easter which the three Persons of the Trinity have been preparing for us since the beginning of time.

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