10 February – Ash Wednesday
Christ the Lord was tempted and suffered for us. Come, let us adore him.
‘Now, now – it is the Lord who speaks –
come back to me with all your heart,
fasting, weeping, mourning.’
Let your hearts be broken, not your garments torn,
turn to the Lord your God again,
for he is all tenderness and compassion,
slow to anger, rich in graciousness,
and ready to relent.
Who knows if he will not turn again, will not relent,
will not leave a blessing as he passes,
oblation and libation
for the Lord your God?
Sound the trumpet in Zion!
Order a fast,
proclaim a solemn assembly,
call the people together,
summon the community,
assemble the elders,
gather the children,
even the infants at the breast.
Let the bridegroom leave his bedroom
and the bride her alcove.
Between vestibule and altar let the priests,
the ministers of the Lord, lament.
Let them say,
‘Spare your people, Lord!
Do not make your heritage a thing of shame,
a byword for the nations.
Why should it be said among the nations,
“Where is their God?”’
Then the Lord, jealous on behalf of his land,
took pity on his people.
2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2
We are ambassadors for Christ; it is as though God were appealing through us, and the appeal that we make in Christ’s name is: be reconciled to God. For our sake God made the sinless one into sin, so that in him we might become the goodness of God. As his fellow workers, we beg you once again not to neglect the grace of God that you have received. For he says: At the favourable time, I have listened to you; on the day of salvation I came to your help. Well, now is the favourable time; this is the day of salvation.
Jesus said to his disciples:
‘Be careful not to parade your good deeds before men to attract their notice; by doing this you will lose all reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give alms, do not have it trumpeted before you; this is what the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win men’s admiration. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you give alms, your left hand must not know what your right is doing; your almsgiving must be secret, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.
‘And when you pray, do not imitate the hypocrites: they love to say their prayers standing up in the synagogues and at the street corners for people to see them; I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you pray, go to your private room and, when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in that secret place, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.
‘When you fast do not put on a gloomy look as the hypocrites do: they pull long faces to let men know they are fasting. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that no one will know you are fasting except your Father who sees all that is done in secret; and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.’
Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart… rend your hearts, not your garments.
Ash Wednesday marks the start of the forty days of Lent ahead of us. Each year, I commit myself to the same Lenten fast – a fast from Anger. And each year, I seem to find a way of failing about halfway through my commitment. It’s a humbling experience, one that I keep repeating in the hope that one day, I will be able to run this race till the end.
The fasting and abstinence that’s so integral to Lent is our way of remembering Christ’s forty days of hunger and wandering in the desert. And as Christ was tested by the Devil, in the next forty days, we too will find ourselves being tested. We will feel doubt, anger, sorrow, fatigue, confusion – the same emotions that Christ experienced. Because it is Lent, these feelings will seem magnified, more extreme than usual. Think of this as our soul’s awareness to sin and do not be afraid. We see with more clarity during Lent, as if our spiritual eyes are opened.
Lent is a powerful time for believers; a time of repentance, of reflection, of purification; a time of spiritual growth. Lent is a time for remembering old sins, in order that we may do better this year. A time for setting our inner compass to the rhythms of the Easter celebration that is to come. Lent is also a time where we make peace; with God, our families and with ourselves. “Rend your hearts, not your garments and return to the Lord, your God. For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment.”
Go back to the Lord this Lent. Go back; let go; and let Him help you to move on. Lent is a time for giving up the old ways that no longer serve us, and embracing the love and grace of God – love that comforts, that gives hope and heals. Go back to the Lord this Lent and let Him help you to let go of that which is holding you back.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: We pray for all those who are holding on to anger, to hurt, to resentment and regret. We pray that they embrace the Holy Spirit’s love and learn to let go, that they move forward.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the enduring love of our Savior, who loved us, was tested for us, who died for us and now is risen for us. Amen!