Lent is time to refocus on God’s love and forgiveness, Bishop Kettler says at Ash Wednesday Mass

Categories: Around the Diocese,lent

Like a single flute player in a large symphony orchestra, we may be tempted to believe that our lives make very little difference in the big scheme of things.

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Bishop Donald Kettler makes the sign of the cross with ashes on the forehead of a woman during the Ash Wednesday Mass Feb. 18 at St. Mary’s Cathedral. Photo by Dianne Towalski/Visitor

But God wants each of us to know that we have a vital role to play in his grand design, Bishop Donald Kettler told the standing-room-only congregation at the noon Mass for Ash Wednesday at St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud.

“God wants you to hold yourself in high esteem,” he said during his homily. “God wants you to appreciate your own true worth. God wants you to know that you are uniquely valuable. God wants you to know that he needs you to stand up for justice and peace. Without you, the world, like a grand symphony, will be missing something that no one will be able to replace.”

“If you think of yourself as an insignificant, unimportant, unneeded flute,” he said, “God wants to change that thinking and make you believe that you are valuable, powerful and an always-needed instrument of his love and of his mission to the world.”

To be effective instruments, however, we must make God the center of our lives, Bishop Kettler said. Lent is an opportunity to refocus on God through prayer, penance and helping others so we can root out selfishness, hopelessness, despair and sin from our lives.

Sin, “more than anything else, makes us feel and act small and useless,” he said. But, thankfully, God is ready to help us.

“Our God is a God who encourages people to get up and to try again,” Bishop Kettler said. “He always forgives. He is a God of second chances, of third chances, of fourth chances and even more.”

God wants us to come back to him, to reconcile with people we are at odds with, and “to tell this message, strongly and clearly, to our world and to those who have stumbled.”

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Benedicte Ilboudo, a member of St. Mary’s Cathedral Parish, prays during the communion song at the Ash Wednesday Mass there Feb. 18. Photo by Dianne Towalski/The Visitor

“God, like the conductor of the orchestra,” he said, “is looking right at you and me and saying, ‘Where’s the flute? I need you. I forgive you. I love you.’”

Father Robert Rolfes, vicar general of the diocese, and Father Gerald Mischke concelebrated the Mass and assisted in the distribution of ashes, during which the recipients were reminded to “turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.”

Why ashes?

The ashes used by the church to mark the sign of the cross on a person’s forehead are a call to repentance and to live more Christ-like lives. They are also a reminder of our own mortality and dependence on God.

Benedicte Ilboudo, a member of St. Mary’s Cathedral, said Ash Wednesday and the Lenten season are a time for her to focus on deepening her relationship with Jesus, motivating her to “ask for forgiveness and to help others in need.”

Receiving ashes helps to give people a visual reminder of the commitment they undertake during Lent to deepen their relationship with God, Bishop Kettler said during an interview with The Visitor.

“There seems to be inherently in us a desire to be better and to grow, ” he said. “That’s why I think Lent is so important. It really offers a chance to build on people’s basic inclinations to do that.”

He encourages people to deepen their Lenten experience by choosing “something personal” to do. It might be committing to special prayers, special acts of charity, fasting or “doing something they ought to do but haven’t been doing,” he said.

But Lent has a communal aspect as well, Bishop Kettler said. A person might also consider enrolling in special Lenten classes or retreats, participating in Stations of the Cross, and taking part in Catholic Relief Services’ Rice Bowl initiative.

It’s also a good time to receive the sacrament of penance, he said.

“In order for us to grow and change, we have to take a step,” Bishop Kettler said. “The sacrament of penance helps us to do that. And there’s also a special grace — the power of God helping you — that’s given in the sacrament of penance that I think you don’t receive at any other time.”