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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday

God longs for us to return to him with our whole heart. The first reading is from the Prophet Joel (2:12-18) and begins, "Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting and weeping, and mourning. Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God. For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment...."

Psalm 51 has the refrain: "Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned."

We ask God in this Psalm to have mercy on us, to wash away our guilt and cleanse us of our sins for "I acknowledge my offense, and my sin is before me always; against you only have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight." And then comes the verse I love:
A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me."

We then ask to have back the "joy of your salvation" - and this leads us to the Second Reading from Paul's second letter to the Corinthians (5:20-6:2) where we are called ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us.
If we are to call others to be reconciled with God, we must first make sure that we are reconciled. Jesus tells us in the Gospel to take care that no one sees us do good deeds, give alms, pray and fast because "your Father who sees in secret will repay you." That phrase is repeated three times in the Gospel (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18). So we begin Lent knowing what is pleasing to the Lord and we ask him to help us during the next forty days to stay with him and to realize that the sign of the cross on our foreheads today is to keep us faithful as well as humble. The verse before the Gospel is one to use frequently: "Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ, King of endless glory! If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts."

If we are serious about following the Lord in Lent, we will share in his joy at Easter! What is the Lord asking of me this Lent?

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