Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten Season. Ash Wednesday has been described as “…a day of repentance. We are no more sinful on Ash Wednesday than on any other day – it is meant to serve as a speed bump, forcing us to slow down, consider our spiritual state, and repent of our sins. Embrace the opportunity to receive Christ’s cleansing (create a clean heart in me, O God) with full awareness of our need for His forgiveness.”
Joel 2:12-18 – Rend Your Heart
12 “Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” 13 Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. 14 Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing– grain offerings and drink offerings for the LORD your God. 15 Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. 16 Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber. 17 Let the priests, who minister before the LORD, weep between the temple porch and the altar. Let them say, “Spare your people, O LORD. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’ ” 18 Then the LORD will be jealous for his land and take pity on his people.
Psalm 51: 3-6, 12-14, 17
3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. 5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. 6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. 13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you. 14 Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
2 Corinthians 5:20-21, 6:1-2
5:20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
6:1 As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. 2 For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18 – Giving to the Needy, Prayer, Fasting
1 “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Today God our Father brings us to the beginning of Lent.
We pray that in this time of salvation
He will fill us with the Holy Spirit, purify our hearts,
and strengthen us in love.
Let us humbly ask Him:
Lord, give us your Holy Spirit
. Maywe befilled and satisfied,
– by the word which you give us.
Teach us to be loving not only in great and exceptional moments,
– but above all in the ordinary events of daily life.
May we abstain from what we do not really need,
– and help our brothers and sisters in distress.
The Journey Begins:
There will be so many lessons for us in our journey.
It starts with God’s inspiration.
We are reminded of the breath of life that God breathed at the beginning of creation and the driving wind of the Holy Spirit’s coming at Pentecost.
The grace for all we are about to do comes from God.
Today we pray to be open to it.
Today we also acknowledge that for us to do what we hope to do these six weeks, we need God’s continuing help.
Each day, with every prayer, every sacrifice, every act of generosity…
we will need help which can only come from God.
And, finally, we need God’s guidance to persevere to the end.
There will be tough choices, not only between good and
but choices about what is the greater good.
We may even be called to do something quite heroic and self-sacrificing.
it feels like we are embarking on a Lenten journey together, you and I.
I want to remember how much I need you in my life
and how much my life needs lasting transformation.
I want to remember it clearly and
in the background of my day today and all through Lent.
May my small sacrifices in fasting be a way to clear away
the clutter in my life to see you more clearly.
Let me be aware of those who are in need.
May I acknowledge to you my sins
and my deep need for your loving forgiveness and grace.
I pray that this Lenten season will make me so much more awareAmen.
of how much I need your daily presence in my life.