‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’
2nd March 2022
‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’.
I write this on Ash Wednesday, a day which for many Christians marks the first day of the Christian season of Lent. It offers a solemn reminder of human mortality and the need for reconciliation with God. In many churches ashes obtained by burning the palms used on the previous Palm Sunday, are applied in the shape of a cross to the forehead of each worshipper. As it says in the Christian burial service ‘…earth to earth, ashes to ashes, in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life’. So it is both a reality check concerning our mortal life combined with the hope of life eternal.
Ash Wednesday may also be observed by fasting and abstinence, in which only one full meal and no meat is to be eaten. And this year Pope Francis and other Christian leaders have encouraged believers around the globe to fast and pray for those caught up in the worsening situation in Ukraine. Expressing great sadness at the worsening situation in Ukraine, Pope Francis asked world leaders on Wednesday to “make a serious examination of conscience before God.” He went on to say “I invite everyone to make next March 2, Ash Wednesday, a day of fasting for peace. I encourage believers in a special way to devote themselves intensely to prayer and fasting on that day. May the Queen of Peace preserve the world from the madness of war.”
The purpose of any act of fasting and penitence is to enable as Francis says ‘a serious examination of conscience’, in order that we may act with compassion and wisdom and so that actions may be ‘for righteousness sake’, rather than self-serving. And at this particular time we all need to consider how best to respond to the conflict in Ukraine and those caught up in that conflict.
Jesus in his sermon does not offer a life free from troubles or conflicts but blessings upon those who struggle for righteousness sake. For many that is a very present reality.
A prayer for Ukraine (Source: Cafod)
We pray for the people of Ukraine,
for all those suffering or afraid,
that you will be close to them and protect them.
We pray for world leaders,
for compassion, strength and wisdom to guide their choices.
We pray for the world
that in this moment of crisis,
we may reach out in solidarity
to our brothers and sisters in need.
May we walk in your ways
so that peace and justice
become a reality for the people of Ukraine
and for all the world.