Intention: As Lent begins, we may accept God’s call to renew our hearts and ways so that we might be freed from all that binds us and find new life in his saving grace.
Today’s Gospel | Matthew 6:1-6,16-18
Jesus said to his disciples: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”
A Lenten Reflection
Today is Ash Wednesday. This day has its roots in the ancient Judaic penitential practice of the wearing of sackcloth and ashes as an open declaration of grieving and mourning, often for one’s own transgressions against God. In early Christianity, the wearing of ashes was encouraged as a ritual observance to begin the Lenten fast of the 40 days leading to Easter. Then, as now, this ritual was intended as a physical sign of the spiritual purpose of Lent: repentance for sinfulness, acceptance of forgiveness, and return to faithfulness.
Ash Wednesday is a reminder of the need to keep our house in order. While we try to stay on top of their lives, over time things can start to get away from us. We forget, we postpone, we ignore. Soon, our minds and hearts are cluttered with responsibilities left unmet, relationships left unrepaired, changes left unmade. We become who we’ve allowed ourselves to become instead of who we have been called to be.
Today, we publicly admit that there always is work to be done and that we don’t always do it. However, with both God’s one another’s help, we will. And so we rededicate to ourselves to the work of being God’s children, of keeping our lives a fit dwelling for the Lord rebuilding our world at its broken places. Lent has begun.
Eternal Father, we are sinners, yet you love us deeply. You see into the secret places inside us and you know us in our weakness and in our goodness. Give us the courage to look at our faults. Give us the humility to ask for your help to repent and to make better choices. Guide us into new pathways that will draw our hearts home to you. In this time of Lent, may we turn away from our sinfulness and return ourselves to you, always aware of your presence and always obedient to your will. We ask this of you who lives and reigns with your Son and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.