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By: Ashley Griffin // Mercy Musings Blog

This piece is a personal reflection from Ashe Wednesday Mass at Mount de Sales Academy and Homily given by Father Casey Cole, O.F.M.

Easter week is right around the corner, and as we close out the Lenten season, I wanted to reflect on Father Casey Cole’s recent Ash Wednesday Homily for the Mount de Sales community. Surprisingly, it was not a message about sacrifice. He did not ask students if they were giving up sweets, or television, or coffee. Instead he proclaimed, “Don’t give anything up!”—insisting we had all given up enough this year.

When COVID reared its ugly head, a year ago this month, we all gave up plenty: friends, vacations, ministry, restaurants, and travel. Lent 2020 never really ended. Sports seasons were postponed, proms canceled, and classes moved online. The sacrifices over the last year have seemed much bigger than normal. “Has it changed you?” he asked. “Are you any different?” He continued, saying, “We have a false connection sometimes that sacrifice equals conversion. Giving things up naturally equals virtue. One might lead to the other, but they are definitely not the same thing.” Simply giving up something does not make you whole or more virtuous. Giving up sweets during Lent is not what brings you closer to God. He said that “sacrifices are the vehicle, not the goal.”

Father Casey challenged us to not only find something to give up, but also to focus on the preparation. While sacrifices are important, what is the real goal? The purpose of Lent is a preparation for Easter, understanding that Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for us. “Easter is our goal; the waters of baptism; the conversion that leads us to follow after Jesus. He calls us to be His disciples, to love each other, to serve the poor, and to announce the kingdom.” Lent is a time for training, preparation; it is the test, the opportunity. We may be clinging to something that may not be the best for us, and Father Casey believes that “Lent is the opportunity to let those things go. To be fully who we are called to be.” He quoted Matthew 4:19, where Jesus says to his disciples, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Focus on the mission. How can we be better disciples? Focus on the conversion of your own heart. How can we live more fully? Do not worry about what you are giving up or what you have lost, but instead, focus on what is being offered to you. Our Lord is good and He has given us so much. Focus on the many gifts Jesus is offering – opportunities to love your brothers and sisters and being good stewards of those gifts. The point is to become disciples. Go out and proclaim that Jesus is alive!

To watch the full Mass and hear Father Casey’s complete Homily, click here.

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Mount de Sales Academy is a private Catholic school located in Macon, GA, and serves students in Bibb, Houston, Jones, Monroe, Peach and other surrounding counties. MDS is sponsored and inspired by the Sisters of Mercy. Since 1876, MDS has served a diverse college-preparatory community of learners—students and teachers alike—who are poised to discover, challenged to innovate, and motivated to serve.