6 March 2019 – Ash Wednesday
‘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.’
Now is the favourable time.
My wife and I will have been married 22 years come November this year. The questions we often get asked are how we managed to stay married for so long, and also, how we can get along so well without conflict.
The reality is that we do fight and have disagreements, and we have hurt each other with our inconsiderate words and behaviour. We have been unkind and said things we don’t mean. What matters is that we reconcile. We spend time talking, explaining, hugging and crying. Ultimately, we may have been angry, but in the end, forgiveness will always happen.
I regret the painful fights and the pain they bring. I regret hurting my wife, but I think those times allow us to understand each other better, to grow as a couple and as a family.
Our fallen nature causes us to sin against God, despite our privileged position as children of God. We make poor choices, fail to tame our tongue; we think wrong thoughts, we judge others, amongst the multitude of sins we can commit.
What an excellent opportunity Lent presents us to come back to our God! When we fast from our favourite foods or activities we usually enjoy doing, we give ourselves a chance to sit down and have a conversation with our Lord.
Have a wonderful Lent, my brothers and sisters.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)
Prayer: We pray, Father, that we may be able to recognise everything within us that have sinned against You. Help us to face them and surrender them to You, oh Lord!
Thanksgiving: We thank You for this period of prayer and reconciliation. We are grateful that You continue to love and to never give up on us.