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Lectionary: 220: Ash Wednesday

February 28, 2017

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Lectionary for Ash Wednesday, #220.  Wednesday, March 1, 2017:  Scripture: Joel 2:12-18. Psalm 51: 3-4,5-6, 12-13. 14.17. II Corinthians 5:20-6:2. Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18:

Ash Wednesday is here. Jesus asks us to face it with a joyful countenance just as the wise Sirach suggested yesterday.  No gloomy faces or negative approaches to this rich season of graces.  Being positive will help others to enter into this season with some joy rather than thinking about what to “give up.”

Let us follow Joel, the prophet’s clarion call and message: “Return to me, the Lord, with all your heart.” For me that is rather encouraging.  I need to take time to pause and reassess where I am on the journey toward God while following Jesus.  Your heart and mine were created by God and ultimately they are to return to God, the giver of life.  By walking with Jesus we are more than returning to God.  We are making progress toward the kingdom which is actually here among us through Jesus’ presence and that of the Holy Spirit our guide.  Yes, prayer, almsgiving, and fasting are helpful for this journey, but it is our heart and its desires that the Lord wants of us.

Psalm 51 is a beautiful psalm for our Lenten journey.  The liturgy will bring it to us several times during this season.  We can profit from it for it gives us the spirit of a joyful return to the Lord after having missed the mark by sinning.  God’s loving-kindness and compassion are the core message of this penitential psalm. The transparency of the person who prayed this psalm shows a crushed heart reaching out for the mercy of God in such an honest confession of sin that both in the synagogue and the Church the psalm touches the heart of the one praying it. Incidentally, the seven penitential psalms of the Church are Psalms: 6, 32, 38, 51, 101, 130 and 143. These are worthwhile Lenten prayers.

Paul prods us on with these words, “Now is the acceptable time. Now is the day of salvation! We are able to be the holy ones of God, Paul tells us, if we respond to the graces God gives us. To recognize the graces we need to begin our prayer while calling to mind the presence of God.

Jesus then takes us into the journey with him by showing us the joyful way of embracing fasting, prayer, and almsgiving.  We are to be humble about these acts of love and penance and perform them without being gloomy or showing off how holy we think we are!  There is a certain silent secrecy about performing these primary suggestions for Lent.  Our countenances are to be smiling and open not sad and sorrowful.  When we look into the mirror in the morning we should see Jesus summoning us to follow him during this grace-filled season. Amen.

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