Now Is the Acceptable Time!

Ash Wednesday
Joel 2: 12-18; 2 Cor 5:20 – 6:2; Mt 6: 1-6, 16-18
Deacon Larry Brockman

Well, it’s that time of year again! Lent is here. Time to fast, set aside some time for prayer, and give alms. So, what should we really do? Maybe give up candy, TV, or Facebook? Maybe a few extra minutes a day in prayer like a rosary would be good for prayer; and maybe a few extra dollars in the collection should do the trick for alms.

But wait a minute, Let’s just pull back and look at what the whole Lenten process is really about before we move off on a plan. Lent is all about examining your life and making a change- a permanent change. So, how did Jesus do that? Well, Jesus was raised in Nazareth and trained to be a carpenter. But after He was Baptized Jesus went away for 40 days and pondered what his life was all about. He came away from that 40 day retreat a changed man. That was the origin of the season of Lent.

Essentially Jesus was trying to find his heart when he went off into the desert. He sensed that he was not being called to be a carpenter the rest of his life. Jesus fasted and prayed and asked God his Father what life was all about for him. He was tempted by the devil, who tried to get Jesus to seek comfort, power, and fame. But Jesus emerged strong by resisting those temptations. Jesus understood that those things were worldly and that they were not God’s will for him.

So, Jesus listened to God’s voice, a little more subtle and gentle voice, a voice which revealed to him the special mission God wanted him to perform to believe in God and his law with his whole heart; to preach a new way of living, one that emphasized repentance and forgiveness of sins. Jesus resolved to be obedient to the Father, and Jesus also accepted whatever happened as a consequence of his obedience to the Father. Jesus even foresaw that the consequences would be his passion and death, followed by his Resurrection.

The ashes you will all receive in a few moments, are a reminder of your own mortality in the physical world. We all realize, just like Jesus realized, that we have limited time in this life. That’s why it is important for us all to be in a right relationship with God at all times. And yet, there are so many voices that dance through our minds Which of them is really God speaking to us, and what does he really want of us going forward?
Now there are three Lenten pillars that Jesus speaks of in Matthew- Fasting, Prayer, and Almsgiving. Fasting prepares us for hearing God; prayer is our channel for communicating with God; and almsgiving indicates that we have heard God and are responding to Him.

In a sense, Fasting is the most pressing need. Jesus found that conventional fasting helped clear his mind for prayer and talking to his Father. So, Jesus went into the desert and did not eat. That worked for him, because he had a very special relationship with the Father.

What we really need to do is to determine what will help us to focus on God’s voice. And it may not be a conventional fast. Notice that in the Joel reading for Ash Wednesday, Joel says we need to rend our hearts, not our garments. Rend means to tear open, to split up. Joel is recommending that we open up our hearts, tear them open and make them bare in front of the Lord. Joel is suggesting this so we get our hearts set right, then we will be in a right relationship with God.

How can you do that? Well, first find out where your heart is. Is your heart with your routine, your pleasures, your job, your family? Wherever your heart is, that is what motivates you; it’s also what occupies your time, especially your discretionary time. So, why not try to find something that that your heart is set on and give some of that up for Lent.

By putting that something aside, you will do two things. You will open a place for God there. You may find yourself hurting for a while; but that’s why the process may take 40 days. Second, a little bit of self-giving goes a long way with God. If you really make a sacrifice out of your own wants from the heart; if your sincere motivation is to have a better relationship with God, then God will respond.

I think all of us have things that we really like to do that take up our time and sap our energy. These things are what our hearts are set on. Maybe it is TV, Facebook, going out with the girls, video games, or eating too much. In other words, maybe it is some of the things we usually try to fast from. But there are also those things that we just have to have our way. They may be stopping us from being obedient to God in some important way.

This Lent, try something different. Identify something that would be a real sacrifice for you, something that is a basic change in direction that you have wanted to make for a long time; something that is a change in heart; even something that opens your heart to vulnerability. And then pray that God will fill you with some new course in its place. My bet is that when you open your heart to the Lord that way, He will answer your prayer. He will fill you with his Love and will nudge you in a new direction.

As St. Paul says to the Corinthians: “Now is the acceptable time”. Yes, now is the acceptable time to make a difference.

Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.