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As I opened the backdoor this morning, I couldn't help pondering on the meaning of Ash Wednesday and the significance of the liturgical season it leads us into. Only a few days ago, our back garden was covered with snow and no sign of life but the first thing that greeted me this morning was an explosion of colour from the huge Mimosa tree that's already in bloom! The aim of the liturgical year is to help us assimilate the mystery of Christ - his life, death and resurrection. Lent and Easter do so with greater intensity. Lent prepares us for Easter; it trains us as it guides us through the passage from death to life. Lent is therefore not an end in itself but culminates in Easter when we celebrate with Christ the rebirth to new life. The progressive entering into the mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ during Lent is expressed by the word: conversion. Translated from the Greek, it means change of mentality and from Latin, return or change of direction. The call to conversion during Lent has therefore these implications for us: - that we turn away from a mentality that is not rooted in the Gospel and take on a Christian mentality, a Christian way of thinking, of perceiving, of discerning, - that we turn away from what leads us to sin, to works of the flesh, to false attachments and towards a life of grace, a life in the Spirit, - that wherever selfishness rules, that egocentricity that closes its doors to Christ and to the brothers and sisters, we seek a new openness and docility to God and practical love towards those around us. Return to me with your whole heart, ...Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God. Joel 2v12 Any authentic conversion is never easy. In fact, authentic conversion is tough! The conversion were talking about is dying with Christ so as to rise with him, it needs to touch the deepest core of our being and it is a call for nothing less than change - interior change, a change of heart, pruning, cutting away! ...and it will hurt, just like it hurts when the dentist touches an exposed nerve. If this Lent doesnt hurt the old man in us then its probably because we have not allowed Gods finger to touch the real wound in us. Perhaps this Ash Wednesday we have resolved to give alms or refrain from eating sweets or from watching too much TV during the next few weeks. But if Lent does not lead us to turn away from sin which is what threatens an intimate relationship with God, it would not have entered into the deepest parts of our being. And for that reason, neither can we therefore expect that Easter would enter into the deepest recesses of our soul.

Return to me with your whole heart, ...Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God. Joel 2v12 If we approach this Lent as a series of fasts that do not actually cost us much and do not transform us inwardly, we would gain very little, if anything all. And so, at the climax of this liturgical season, we would be poorly trained to ring the Easter bells! Celebrating Lent is about allowing ourselves to stand courageously before the mirror of our loving and merciful Lord and letting him shed his light, his salvation, to penetrate the dark areas of our lives. It is about hearing afresh and responding with decisiveness to the call: "Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy. Leviticus 19v2. Anna Ash Wednesday 2012