Ash Wednesday

Year B / February 17, 2021

Today’s Readings

     Joel 2:12–18 

     Psalm 51:3–4, 5–6ab, 12–13, 14, 17 

     2 Corinthians 5:20–6:2 

     Matthew 6:1–6, 16–18 

 “EVEN NOW, SAYS THE LORD. . . .” After the year we’ve been through since last Ash Wednesday, those are words I need to hear. Even now, when you’ve been so beaten down by virus and violence that you live in constant fear, return to me. Even now, after witnessing the same systemic patterns of injustice and racism repeat over and over again, come back to me. Even now, when you have been spent, come home. To the festering wounds in our society and in our church revealed by the pandemic— racism, systemic inequalities, selfishness—God says even now, there is hope. 

As we entered the “lentiest Lent ever” in 2020 and moved into an uncertain Easter, we all seemed to agree that we should never again take our liturgies and sacraments, our faith communities and communal practices for granted ever again. Therefore, as we sound the trumpet on the holy mountain of God at the beginning of this Lent, let us hear God’s plea. Let us no longer take for granted the warning cry to repent and turn away from sin. Let us embrace with humility our need for one another since each of us will return to dust. Even now, there is still time to let the grace of Lent heal us all. 

—Diana Macalintal 

Suggested Music

Expanded listings for Sundays and Solemnities can be found at

Come Back to the Lord

Leo Nestor

G-8227 · Unison, assembly, organ

While written to be sung during the imposition of ashes, the piece’s flexibility and evocative text make it suitable for use throughout the Lenten season.

MYSTAGOGY MOMENT:  “Come back to the Lord with all your heart; leave the past in ashes.”

Many of us would like to leave 2020 in the past…reducing those memories to ashes seems appropriate in many ways. Memories of isolation, memories of pain, memories of sin, memories of fear, all of these can be transformed from burdens into ashes when we turn to the Lord. What burdens will become your ashes this Lent? What future will rise from hese ashes?

– Victoria Zibell

Lenten Proclamation

James Chepponis

G-2761 · Three equal or mixed voices, opt. handbells (11)

Consider using this GIA classic as a call to prayer before your liturgies.

Merciful God

Tony Alonso, Text by Mary Louise Bringle

G-7587 · SAB, cantor, assembly, keyboard, guitar, C instrument, cello  

There are three refrains in this ritual piece—one each for Ash Wednesday, general Lenten gatherings, and Lenten celebrations of Communion.

From Ashes to the Living Font

Arr. James E. Clemens, Text by Alan J. Hommerding

005796 · SATB, assembly, organ, trumpet 

Whether or not the full setting is used, this hymn has become one of the most important additions to Lenten repertoire.

More suggestions for Ash Wednesday…


Don’t Turn Away • Chris de Silva

SAB, cantor, assembly, keyboard, guitar, opt. violin and cello


Fill Us, O God • Shannon Cerneka and Orin Johnson

Two-part choir, cantor, assembly, keyboard, guitar


Kyrie Eleison • Nicholas Palmer



Let Us Turn Away from Sin (Parce Domini) • Paul French

SATB, assembly, cantor, organ


Now Is the Time• James V. Marchionda, OP

Children’s choir, cantor, assembly, keyboard, guitar, opt. trumpet


Sign Us with Ashes • William Rowan, Text by Mary Louise Bringle

SATB, keyboard, opt. 2 C instruments


Turn Our Hearts Around • Trevor Thomson

SATB, cantor, assembly, keyboard, guitar