With Ash Wednesday, we begin our journey through Lent. In the words of Pope Francis, the season of Lent ‘urgently calls us to conversion!’ It encourages us to renewal and transformation. It invites us to acknowledge our sinfulness and return to God with all our hearts.

It is as if we are invited to walk a journey not too unlike that of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11–31). We need to approach Lent as a time of reconciliation; reconciliation with ourselves, with others, with all of creation and with God. Desmond Tutu reminds us, ‘True reconciliation is never cheap, for it is based on forgiveness which is costly. Forgiveness in turn depends on repentance, which has to be based on an acknowledgment of what was done wrong, and therefore on disclosure of the truth. You cannot forgive what you do not know.’

We are invited this Lent to see the other person as gift. The other person could be family or friend, stranger or neighbour, refugee or immigrant, Christian or someone of another faith or belief. The other is every person encountered in person and in story. The other is one who lives next door or across the oceans. Every person invites from us welcome, acceptance, respect and love. We are called to empathy. We are called to walk in the shoes of the other.

Significantly, this year Ash Wednesday coincides with Zero Discrimination Day. This is a day that brings people together to end discrimination and celebrate diversity, tolerance and inclusion. It is an opportunity to celebrate everyone’s right to live a full and productive life with dignity—no matter what they look like, where they come from or who they love.

Do I hear the Word of God? The Word of God is gift. During Lent, we are urged to listen intently to and for the Word of God. We listen for the Word of God like Mary did. She was open to it and responded wholeheartedly to the invitation of God.

Let us journey through this Lent ‘compassionate of heart, gentle in word, gracious in awareness, courageous in thought, generous in love.’ (John O’Donohue)

READ: The Lenten Message of Pope Francis

WATCH: Lenten Song – Michael John Poirier

CONSIDER: 1. Make some noise for #ZeroDiscrimination

2. Creation as Gift:  Stations of the Cross with Laudato Si