JOEL 2:12-18; PSALM 50; 2CORINTHIANS 5:20-6:2; MATTHEW 6:1-6, 16-18
The season of lent is here again. This is the great penitential season of the Church’s life. It begins on Ash Wednesday and ends approximately six weeks later, the night before Easter Sunday. Ash Wednesday is one of the most popular and important holy days in the liturgical calendar. Ash Wednesday comes from the ancient Jewish tradition of penance and fasting. The practice includes the wearing of ashes on the head. The ashes symbolize the dust from which God made us. As the priest applies the ashes to a person’s forehead, he speaks the words: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Alternatively, the priest may speak the words, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” Ashes also symbolize grief, in this case, grief that we have sinned and caused division from God. Priests administer ashes during Mass and all are invited to accept the ashes as a visible symbol of penance. Even non-Christians are welcome to receive the ashes. The ashes are made from blessed palm branches, taken from the previous year’s Palm Sunday Mass.
We are invited to enter into this season with our whole heart, ensure you lay aside the things that will distract you during this season. Respect each day of the season and ensure you are very close to God’s word. Give yourself some assignment from scriptures as you go through this season. You can equally read the lives of the saints and follow the daily mood of the Church. Don’t be a passive participant but an active participant so that at the resurrection morning we shall all rise with him in glory.
The readings today speak of repentance, fasting and preparation. These are the basic themes of the season of lent. We can prepare for salvation by prayer, fasting and almsgiving. The Gospel reminds us that in observing the season of lent we are to carry out our obligation in sincerity and not just for mere show. So, beyond giving out food stuff and cash gifts we must give up sin and hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is an attitude that is very common in Lenten season. Some people want to let you know how much they can fast and what they give as alms. Others just want to outdo their friends in the number of times they were present at Stations of the Cross. You hear things like “since de start stations of the cross I never miss one day”. Beloved, we don’t seek to please anyone but God.
Moment like this our hearts could knit pick our failures and evaluate our capacity to stand the sacredness of the season with our weakness. “I have never fasted before; how can I fast now?”, “I am so addicted to x how can I abstain now?” Beloved, there is hope! The hope is presented in the first reading – God is tender hearted, compassionate, slow to anger, rich in graciousness and ready to relent. If we are ready to change God is ready to welcome us and help us. All we need do is to be willing. Where there is a will, there is a way. Beloved, St. Paul reminds us in the second reading that we are ambassadors of Christ therefore, we cannot live in contrary to the gospel.