Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday

Dear All,

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent.  The liturgical year has for special seasons, Christmas, Lent and Easter.  The weeks “in between” are called ordinary time.  Lent starts with an invitation from the Book of Joel, one of the twelve minor Prophets from the Old Testament, to open our hearts and return to the Lord with fasting.  He pronounces our God to be merciful, slow to anger and rich in kindness. 

Jesus gives us some practical means to get our priorities straight and return to God.  We learn how to perform righteous deeds, how to pray and how to fast.  Interesting that all three paragraphs in the Gospel start with the phrase “when you…” leaving it assumed that those three activities are the ones that will get us back on track.  In all three situations he directs us to do it privately, assuring us that God will know about it, even if nobody else on earth notices it.  I get the sense from this scripture from Matthew that the less observable to the physical world, higher the degree of acceptance of our loving Father.  We have all experienced it at one point in our lives.  When intensely focused on any of these three, we get to remember moments of intense inner peace in the aftermath of it.  Lent are five weeks during which we are invited to specially focus on fasting, praying and almsgiving.  Not that we won’t do any of them the rest of the year, but it is a good occasion to focus on them.  Fasting makes me reflect at the opportunity to shed some pounds or kilos, which are excess baggage any way.  And five weeks are a manageable time.  Talking about manageable, we learned something very encouraging during our six year in Germany, a sort of crutch to make the weeks of Lent even more acceptable.  A German Jesuit priest told us that taking a break from fasting on Sundays is perfectly fitting.  He reminded us that it is the Lord’s Day and our joy should not be hindered by fasting afflictions.  Neat, isn’t it?  We are all invited to reflect on plans for fasting, thinking about what it is we are going to give up during these weeks.  Same with praying, are we considering any special dedication to prayer during this Lent?  And for righteous things and almsgiving the opportunities are facing us almost every step of the way.  Are we going to act differently in this season than we usually do, when the next opportunity crosses our path?

From the second reading from St Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, which we have been following for the last several weeks, we read that now is an acceptable time when God will help us.  The letters to the Corinthians come across as very modern.  The society at Corinth had many common traits with our present western society.  Very successful merchants, great architects, not withholding much on promiscuity and very developed social lives.  Paul is writing to people like us.  Therefore we can take to heart when he speaks as an ambassador for Christ, "Be reconciled to God...Now is the day of salvation." 

A complete text of the readings at:

Wishing everyone a blessed Lent,


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