It’s Ash Wednesday Again!

Health Central Ash Wednesday Service

Joel 2: 12-18; 2 Cor 5:20 – 6:2; Mt 6: 1-6, 16-18

Deacon Larry Brockman

Well, here we all are again for Ash Wednesday.  Another year has passed, and Lent begins today.   

A good question for you to ask today is this:  Has anything changed in your life in the last year?  Or are you still living pretty much the way you lived last year?  Are you bogged down in a busy routine, and don’t seem to have the time to break out of it?  Do you sense a growing distance with someone important to you; or are you having problems with someone close to you but don’t seem to ever be able to address them; or maybe you are losing control of something in your life?  Do you have a sense of guilt or concern about any of that?  Do you sense that your relationship with God is suffering?

Because if any of those things resonate with you, now is the time for renewal.  Lent is the classical time on the Church calendar for folks to make some time to reflect on where there are going and what they are doing and to then make a change for the better.  To quote St. Paul:  Now is the acceptable time.

You see, change is absolutely inevitable.    If you wait long enough then something will happen and there will be change- an illness, the loss of a loved one, a betrayal by someone we love.   Any of number of things are percolating around us and can suddenly change our lives forever, even rob us of the chance of healing things because the opportunity is gone.     

The church recommends the three pillars of Lent as a process for renewal.  They are:  Fasting, Prayer, and Almsgiving.   

You know, fasting has been proven by the great mystics to be an effective way to clear our minds so we can come to grips with what’s going on in our lives.  In fact, that’s what John the Baptist and Jesus both did.  They went into the desert, fasted, and reflected on their lives and where they were headed.  The Gospels tell us that Jesus was in the desert for 40 days, and that he survived temptations of the flesh, power, and pride.  But when he emerged, he could see his three-year mission clearly.  And he also saw that he would suffer, die, and be resurrected.  That 40 days is the origin of Lent.  The Church encourages each of us to do as Jesus did.   

Now you don’t have to fast from food any more- just on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.  You can, if that is what is getting in the way of your need to pray and reflect.  Indeed, we probably all eat too much.    That can bog us down, even make us sleepy and listless.  Chances are that most of us could free some time up by fasting in other areas though.  Too much Facebook; too much TV; too many sporting events, too many lunches; you get the idea.    But whatever you need to fast from, use the time that you break free in a productive way. 

In fact, that would be a good time for the second pillar- Prayer and Reflection on what’s nagging you inside, whether it’s any of the things I mentioned or something else.   You know, some of the experts claim that it is God who initiates all prayer.  So, that little voice inside of you that nags you about something, may just be God calling you to share it with Him.  If you can find a quiet place and some free time, spend that time in prayer.  And that doesn’t just mean reciting a prayer, and you talking to God.  God wants a relationship with each and every one of us- a two-way relationship.  So, we have got to listen to God as well as talk to him.   

God speaks to us in varied and strange ways- but often directly through His word.  So, pray over the Sunday or weekday readings.  There‘s a little “Daily Bread” pamphlet covering the next three months available from the Chaplain.  That would be a good way to start.  And you may be surprised how your needs may be met when you listen to those little prompts that God gives you.   

The last Pillar is “Almsgiving”.  That doesn’t just mean dropping a few bucks in the collection plate; or even giving a little extra to your favorite charity.  In recent years, the Church asks for us to contribute our time, our talent, and our treasure.  Almsgiving can be from any of those three.  Almsgiving is a measure of how well our Fasting and Prayerful meditation worked.  We are giving back to God.   

You see, God has an agenda for each of us.  And a part of that agenda is giving of ourselves.  Whatever time, talent, and treasure we have, it all comes from God anyway.  And when we make our time or our talent or our treasure available to others in response to Him, we are showing God that we trust that he has our best interests in mind.  We might even find that he answers our requests in the process.   

So, after we receive our ashes today, rather than walking around with long faces and gloomy hearts because Lent is upon us today, let us be happy instead; let us surrender to our basic need to make positive changes in our lives.  Now is the acceptable time!   

Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.