An Ash Wednesday liturgy in a parish setting

Opening Song:          A Trusting Psalm                   OV 115

Opening Prayer:
God our Father, Companion and Friend,
the light of your truthful love bestows sight
to the darkness of sinful eyes.
May this season of repentance
bring us the blessing of knowing and living from the forgiveness
that you have already lavished upon us,
and may it gift us with seeing the world through your eyes.
We ask this prayer through Christ
your Son and Our Lord.

All: Amen.

First Reading
Joel 2:12-18

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 50
“Be merciful O Lord, for we have sinned”

Second Reading
2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2

Gospel Acclamation
Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ, King of endless glory!
If today you hear his voice,
Harden not your hearts.
Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ, King of endless glory!

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

Prayers of Intercession

Leader: We turn to God our Father,
who is always there, always present and always loving.
We offer him our hopes and prayers,
so we might let God’s grace flow through us
and through His world.

The response to the intercessions is “Lord hear our prayer”.

Reader: That we as Church might mirror the mercy, encouragement and faithfulness that God shows towards us all. Lord hear us.

Reader: That we might recognize and treasure the love and trust within which we are held by God. Lord hear us.

Reader: That we might become aware of the ways in which we can so easily break the bruised reed and quench the wavering flame of hope in others. Lord hear us.

Reader: That in the same way that we expect politicians to work for peace, so may we also strive for peace and justice in the ways we treat those around us. Lord hear us.

Reader: That those who are poor and destitute may find in us a generous heart and a compassionate spirit. Lord hear us.

Reader: That those who have gone before us in death may recognize in God’s presence the One for whom they have desired all their lives, and may they say yes to the bountiful mercy of God’s Heart. Lord hear us.

Leader: You know us better than we know ourselves, Lord, and you trust us even when we are discouraged or afraid. Help us to remember and act from your trust in us, your daughters and sons. We ask this through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

Ceremony of the ashes

Leader: These ashes have been created
from the palms used for Palm Sunday last year.
Lord, may you bless with your forgiving touch
all those who receive these ashes,
and may we in turn bless those around us
through our forgiveness, thoughtfulness and generosity.
We are but dust, and to dust we shall return.
Help us to be faithful to the discipline of Lent,
by carrying in our hearts
the hope that you give us through your Son’s life,
which tells us that you seek to bring
grace into places where there is bitterness,
peace into spaces where there is discord,
trust into times of abandonment, and
a new start into times
when despair seems to have won the day.

You have already forgiven us our sins,
so may we live confidently and prayerfully in the knowledge
that there is nothing that can come between us and the love of you, made visible in Jesus Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

Distribution of Ashes:

“Turn away from sin and believe the Gospel.”

—After people have received the ashes on their forehead, they are invited to take a little stone from the basket provided, as a symbol of that which is unresolved and unfinished in their lives, which they might wish to surrender to God this Lent.

Distribution Song: Isaiah 49 OV 89

Silent Prayer (quiet music?)

Lord’s Prayer
Distribution of Communion

Reflection song: CD “Here Is My Heart” (Briege O’Hare)

Concluding Prayer:

Lord, grant us simplicity and generosity of heart,—so we can share without needing to store up and count up
what people might owe us.
—Grant us a self-forgetfulness
that can enable us to happily share your gracious life –
a life that embodies your hope, your mercy and your gentle strength.

May this Lenten season remind us
that there is nothing that you cannot raise from the dead,
and that there is nothing through which you cannot breathe forth
your creative breath –
especially those times and events in our life
that seem beyond repair, beyond hope
and beyond time and space.

We ask this humble and confident prayer
Through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

May you know always the love of our gracious God
deep in your hearts.

All: Amen.

May you know the tenderness with which he holds your bruises,
your brokenness, your hurts and your hopes.

All: Amen.

May you know always the unquenchable desire
that God has for you and for all people,
and may you let God teach you
how He can use everything for good – including your sinfulness –
for those who let Him.

May Almighty God continue to bless us all –
the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

All: Amen.

Let us go in peace, to continue to love and to serve the Lord.

All: Thanks be to God.

Final Song: Only a Shadow OV 133

Examination of Conscience

The human heart longs for a place where it can be named, where it knows it matters, where it knows it is missed. Yet when we look to something external, some action or some person to give us a sense of who we are, we get into trouble. We then worship a false god, because we believe something created can give more life other than the Creator and Sustainer of Life.

Response: Heal and renew us O Jesus.

When we begin to forget our true identity, we search for something to satisfy us. But the only thing that will satisfy is the remembrance of our being within God, and then living from within this reality. When we have forgotten who we are, we cannot remember who others are either. This seems to give us permission to de-sanctify, to depersonalize, to de-reverence ourselves and others.  

Response: Heal and renew us O Jesus.  

Those things we have called “sins” often are not so much “sin” in themselves as symptoms of a deeper-rooted cause – that we have forgotten who we really are in God. These symptoms arise from unawareness of where our heart is and what our soul is trying to say.  

Response: Heal and renew us O Jesus.  

When we think of “sins”, they may be the more identifiable transgressions such as murder, adultery, anger or theft, or the more individual faults of envy, lust or sloth. Yet as well, there are the sins which often belong to nobody in particular yet belong to everybody in general. For example, there is corporate blindness – both unintentional and sometimes blatantly intentional. In focusing upon personal performance we become blind to issues such as greed and injustice.  

Response: Heal and renew us O Jesus.  

Does Jesus not care that we as a world spend an obscene amount on weapons of war? The more wealth we have, the more weapons we think we need to protect it. The more we hoard, the more energy it takes to secure it. Does Jesus not care that racism is still alive and thriving, or that to legitimize vengeance we righteously invoke the name of God, or that women are still brutally treated in many countries, or that those who fight for the most basic of human rights are still being tortured? Does Jesus not care that we still kill our forests in the name of productivity, that we murder our unborn because they would be a national nuisance? We let the majority of the world go to bed hungry, condoning the “business is business” approach by saying that it has nothing to do with religion.  

Response: Heal and renew us O Jesus.  

Yet just as insidious – perhaps more so – are the not-so-readily-identifiable sins such as cynicism, sarcasm, and most of all, indifference to anyone or anything outside the self. The opposite to love is not hate but indifference. We live in sin when we close our heart, when life freezes over and the truth hides out of fear.  

Response: Heal and renew us O Jesus.  

Actions spring from perspectives. So when indifference takes root, it chokes the human heart like the weeds in Jesus’ parable of the Sower. We are not even aware we have lost connection with our soul. We become numb; we regard ourselves as separate from others, and feel indifferent to those not like us.  

Response: Heal and renew us O Jesus.  

When we refuse to give our heart away and fall in love with life anymore, we withhold ourselves by playing games that are so petty and peurile. Jesus had a cosmic heart that could fall in love with reality as it was, and not as it should have been or could have been. He did not demand that before he loved reality, reality should be different from what it was.  

Response: Heal and renew us O Jesus.  


Jesus Crucified, lead us into reconciliation and the mystery of forgiveness.
We thank you, Crucified God, for becoming a human being,
so we don’t have to try to be little gods.

We thank you for becoming inferior,
so we don’t have to be pretend to be superior to anyone.
We thank you for becoming weak, so we don’t have to be strong.
We thank you for willing to be considered imperfect and strange,
so we don’t have to be considered perfect and normal.

We thank you for being willing to be disapproved of,
so we don’t have to be approved of and liked.
We thank you for being crucified outside the walls, for being expelled and excluded like the sinners,
so you can meet us where we fear that we are –
always outside the walls of holiness.

We thank you for being considered a failure,
so we don’t have to be a success.
We thank you for being wrong by the standards of religion and state,
so we don’t have to keep proving ourselves as always right.
We thank you for being poor in every way,
so we don’t have to be rich in any way.

We thank you Lord Jesus Crucified for being all things that humanity despises and fears, so we can love ourselves and others in you.

We pray we can love you who by your humanity have identified yourself with us at the very point where we most hate ourselves.

Lord Jesus Crucified, you and we are the same. (pause)

Do you wish to partake of the forgiving nature of God?

ALL: We do.

Do you wish to live from your true identity as daughters and sons of the Father?

ALL: We do.

Do you wish to reverence others, who are also daughters and sons of God?

ALL: We do.  

ALL: Only in this confidence do we offer sorrow and repentance for our sins,
We joyfully receive your forgiveness freely given,
and truly desire to live from your eternal gracious absolving love.
We offer the prayers and hopes of our hearts to your in your name.