Ash Wednesday February 17, 2021
In today’s gospel, Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-18, Jesus tells us not to boast. He cautions us not to blow a trumpet to let others know of our good deeds. He tempers our egos. He does not want us addicted to other people’s praise. Jesus challenges us to reorder our lives. So, in Lent, we pray behind closed doors. We reorder our eating habits. We offer people our goods, without letting our left hand know what our right hand is doing.
God reveals right living in Lent. During the pandemic, our households may have become blurred with activity, one task piling on top of the other on the dining room table. Our homes have become our workplace, a school for children of various ages, a place of exercise, and even worship on Sunday. Even during this pandemic, we are called to sort out the chaos.
God beckons us into solitude. Jesus calms us behind a locked door to reveal true intimacy in prayer. Prayer is also a time for self-stripping, ridding our hearts of hatred and violence, of fear and self-hatred. Jesus desires our hearts. We surrender in quiet. Jesus invites us to give over to him our cluttered and chaotic hearts and minds. He desires our souls. We have a long way to go for such surrender, to give ourselves over to the Beloved.
God invites us to fast, to become hungry for eternal love. We are invited to fast from junk food and junk words and actions. We are to fast from slander and lashing out, from criticism and jealousy. We are to fast from alcohol, pornography, gambling, spending money needlessly, and anything we substitute for God. Jesus invites us to seek the forgiveness, mercy, and love of the Father.
God invites us to offer alms for people in need. We offer people not just the junk in the corner of the closet, but meaningful possessions such as time and attention. We give away our possessions so to depend on God for all things. We also become aware of our connection to every human soul. We slowly become alive in the beauty and sacredness of every human being.
God tempers our sense of entitlement. Our entitlement to do and act as we want dampens God’s desire for us to pray, fast and give alms. Our lives are not our own. God asks of us to receive the grace to change. Lent is an opportunity for steep self-reflection. Lent is a time of genuine conversion that is ongoing, no matter how many years ashes have formed a cross on our foreheads.
Lent removes many obstacles. Many people view Lent as an ordeal to get through. Some see it as something we do as an obligation. Some view it as a prideful task that marks our belonging in the Church. Some people view it as an intrusion from disingenuous authority figures. Some ignore it completely. Instead, Lent is where we become surprised at how God’s love and plan are revealed within us. We become what Jesus desires of us, our true selves. Lent is an opportunity for us to freely renew our commitment to follow Jesus’s passion, death and resurrection.
God give you peace,