Readings in Brief: Ash Wednesday
Joel 2:12-18; Psalm 50 (51); 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2; Mathew 6:1-6, 16-18
Come back to me
Dear friends, today is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten season. The Lenten season is a period when Christians pause to recall and relive the passion of Christ that brought salvation to the world. Before Jesus Christ, man (and woman) used to offer sacrifices of lambs for the atonement of sins. The blood of these animals was not good enough to reconcile man and God and because of this, it was repetitive. Jesus, the Christ of God, came to offer for us an everlasting sacrifice of reconciliation with God. What is left now is for us to freely accept to be reconciled and come back to God from where we have strayed.
During this season three things are emphasized. These will help us to evaluate our faithfulness to the tenets of our Christian faith. They are Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving. If we lay emphasis on each of them for a period of 40 days, there is a great chance of regaining what had been lost hence repairing our relationship with God and the neighbour.
Christians must pray and worship God every day, however, there are days of obligation, which include all Sundays, and other special days like Ash Wednesday. During the Lenten season, prayer is focused on the individual relationship with the divine. The main purpose is to repair any flaws or weaknesses in prayer life. It is to ask the divine forgiveness for not being always faithful to his love for us. In the first reading from the book of the Prophet Joel, the Lord himself invites us to come back to him with all our hearts in repentance. This comeback must be genuine and personal rather than a mere public show, “Let your heart be broken, not your garments”. In the Gospel reading, Jesus tells us that we should not pray so that people may see but so that we may win the favour of God who knows what is even in the secret of our hearts.
Fasting is depriving oneself of something necessary with an aim of achieving a goal. During the Lenten season, we fast not only food but also other things that are necessary for our life. We either forgo them for some days or reduce the quantity, which will make us feel pain and with this remember that these things are gifts from God and that there are those who do not have them. Whatever we fast must be given out to those who need them but do not have them. We are not supposed to store them to use after the Lenten season is over. As many people in different parts of the world continue to suffer from the effects of climate change, I believe that there is enough for all in the world if we are willing to share.
Almsgiving is a direct outcome of Christian love. Jesus taught that the greatest commandment is Love for God and love for one’s neighbour as oneself. One of the ways to demonstrate Christian love is by being compassionate to the needy by sharing our fortunes with them. However, we are not to sound trumpets for people to know that we have given. If we do so and the people praise us, we will have already received our reward.
Lenten season dear friends is a period of reconciliation with oneself, the neighbour, nature and eventually God. We cannot be reconciled with God if we still hold grudge against another. It is a moment to give our lives overall repair and maintenance. This will keep us strong in our faith as we journey towards eternity.
The question that we need to ask ourselves is, With whom do I need to be reconciled and why? Once we answer this, the next step is to jump into action and make this reconciliation happen by playing the part due to us. Maybe I need to ask for forgiveness from someone, return something that does not belong to me, tell the truth that I have been withholding and that may be causing harm to someone, take my responsibilities more seriously, be more proactive in my community, etc.
Have a fruitful Lenten Season
Fr. Lawrence Muthee, SVD
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