Cardinal Wuerl Marks the First Day of Lent

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Reflects on the special gift of the Jubilee Year of Mercy

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, celebrated Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle on Ash Wednesday in observance of the beginning of Lent, the 40-day penitential period before Easter and the celebration of Christ’s resurrection from the dead.

In his homily, Cardinal Wuerl reflected on the gift of celebrating Lent during the Jubilee Year of Mercy, encouraging the faithful to experience Christ’s coming, mercy and compassion throughout the forty days of prayers and fasting. “New life, a new beginning – this is what Jesus offers us as we often as we need a fresh start. He tells us to give to him all the things that weigh us down, especially the burden of sin, and to begin anew,” the cardinal said. “The mercy of God is stronger than our sins and he never tires of forgiving us.” Cardinal Wuerl referenced the archdiocese’s successful Lenten reconciliation initiative, “The Light is ON,” which is entering its tenth year and encouraged all to avail themselves of the gift of the sacrament of forgiveness and healing.

As he concluded his homily, the Cardinal reminded those present that the ashes received “are a sign of our human frailty” and the holy season of Lent “reminds of our need for the mercy of God to cleanse us and make us new again so that, by dying with Christ, we might rise again with him in eternal life.”

“Let us not only run to receive the mercy of the Lord, let us manifest that mercy ourselves, a light piercing through the gloom and darkness of the world to show that Christ truly is Lord and Savior,” he said.

After the homily, ashes were distributed to the faithful in attendance. The imposition of ashes is an ancient practice found in the Old Testament. Once a public sign of an individual’s repentance, it became part of the Church’s Lenten preparations by the seventh century. Catholics around the world receive ashes on their foreheads in the Sign of the Cross as a symbol of penance and conversion.

During this Jubilee Year of Mercy, the faithful are encouraged to take advantage of the ample opportunities to encounter mercy through the sacrament of reconciliation. As part of The Light is ON initiative, parishes in the Archdiocese of Washington will be open on Wednesday evenings during Lent (February 17, 24 March 2, 9, and 16) for confession and quiet prayer.


The Archdiocese of Washington is home to over 620,000 Catholics, 139 parishes and 95 Catholic schools, located in Washington, D.C., and five Maryland counties: Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s.

Chieko Noguchi or Lindsey Frechou
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