Ash Wednesday: Joel 2:12-18; Psalm 51; 2 Corinthians 5:20- 6:2; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
March 1: Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-7; Psalm 51; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11
“Even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart.” Joel 2:12a
- So late in the day?
- When the heart is so stony?
- When the cacophony of division robs attention?
- When sadness weighs on the soul?
- When guilt threatens faith?
- When pride blinds?
- When weariness saps?
“Behold now is a very acceptable time; behold now is the day of salvation.” 2 Corinthians 6:2
Now, this moment, the present – in these circumstances, with these feelings and distractions – the gift is being offered. Name the gift or grace as you will: boundless mercy, a clean heart, a prayerful spirit, sharing what one has, fasting from consumerism, a focus on those in need, care for our earth, charity, justice, faith, trust, humility, courage. But turning to God in our need is the first step, the initial grace. Bounty follows.
How heartening it is to see the lines of folks coming for ashes! We may not all follow through in fidelity, but we all know our need. We are all in communion in that recognition. We know our individual need for God and the need of our earth and its peoples for love, justice and mercy. In this Now, we are united in longing.
We may name that longing in differing ways as well, but at bottom it is the desire for God and for meaning in our human struggles. Many will commit to spending time in prayer. We may choose to fast from unkind words, or carbon-expensive meat, or wasteful habits. Some will resolve to share more of themselves, their time and their resources with those who have less. Whatever the direction God suggests to our individual hearts, may our Lenten journey ready the entire human community for Christ to more fully Easter in us.
“Create a clean heart in me, O God, and a steadfast spirit…”
–Margaret O’Brien, SC
Sr. Margaret serves in Congregational leadership as Councilor and Treasurer. She is a former educator, administrator and VP for mission services in an SC-sponsored health system.