Bishop Caggiano’s homily from Mass on Ash Wednesday

My Dear Friends in Christ,

“Sic transit Gloria mundi.” So passes the glory of the world. That simple Latin phrase was used for nearly 660 years, each time a bishop assumed the throne of Peter. And it was during that ceremony of coronation that as the bishop soon to be Pope was carried through St. Peter’s, three times one of his masters of ceremony would fall to his knees while holding in their grasp a golden rod, at the very end of which was a piece of wax that was burning slowly—becoming ashes.

He would proclaim those words sic transit Gloria mundi. For all the pomp, circumstance, glory and power that the new Peter would receive, he was reminded that much of what the world considers to be glory will end up in ashes.

We’ve come here in the beginning of this time of penance to be reminded of the same thing. We enter into the desert for forty days and forty nights so that we may come to the cross of Jesus Christ renewed with our minds and hearts clear that we do not place our trust in the glory of mundi but in the glory of Christi and that our dreams, our hopes, our desires and our longings will find their answer in Christ—the one who freely gave his life so that you and I might have eternal life.

And we will walk these forty days mindful of the fact that you and I have chosen the glory of mundi over and over and over again, each time you and I have sinned. And we see the forgiveness of those sins and repentance of life and new beginning in Jesus Christ. For each time you and I have chosen to follow the ways of the world, believe what the world teaches us, we have come to its glory and we have sinned. Each time you and I have believed and followed the ways of the world and not sought to live a life of patience and love forgiveness and mercy when our hearts have become hardened, we have sinned. And much of what we have done will wind up in ashes.

Each time you and I my friends have chosen to follow what the world wants us to believe—that the only person that ultimately matters is me and it is my will to prevail, my desires that should lead me, my thoughts and opinions should guide everything I do, regardless of what the Lord has taught us, shown us and given us, we have sinned, we have chosen the glory of the world and it will wind up in ashes.

The purpose of Lent, my friends, is to begin with ashes and leave them behind. And in the weeks ahead, to take on the mind of Christ. And we do that by following the words of the Master—by going into our inner room and praying with minds and hearts in devotion. To find the time in our busy lives to do less talking and more listening, to allow Jesus to speak to us, to caress us, to love us and to forgive us. It is to do fasting and abstinence, so that we may go hungry, not for the things of the world but the gifts only Christ can give, most especially His body and blood, soul and divinity that will fill our hearts, our stomachs, our minds and our lives with the only thing we need. And in almsgiving to do the works of charity so that we might become the ambassadors of Christ’s good news of salvation in a world that desperately needs and new way of living.

We begin Lent mindful that we have all at times chosen the glory of this world over the will of God. Let us be resolved to end Lent not being afraid of the words sic transit Gloria mundi, because we will have already left the glories of the world behind to embrace the one who is our glory, our hope and our salvation.