“Now is the favourable time; this is the day of salvation :… turn to the Lord your God again…”
Joël 2,12-18; 2 Co 5,20-6,2; Mt 6,1-6.16-18
….Come back to me with all your heart, fasting, weeping, mourning…
Fr Jean Charles Kubanabantu, SJ, AJAN, Nairobi, Kenya.
The readings and the liturgy of this Ash Wednesday guide the spiritual journey of this favourable time of Lent. We can hear and experience the urgent invitation to learn and once more take the opportunity to come back to the Lord. Indeed, the Lord avails a new opportunity, from which to learn, to recover our memory in order to recognize how often we promise to come back to Him; how often we promise to change and how often we just find it useless to accomplish. We find this learning process highly commented by the psalmist (Ps 89,12) as a journey and a sign of wisdom. The formula of the imposition of ashes strongly recalls it : remember, man, you are dust and to dust you will return! Anybody who experiences the misery of sin finds himself like a person besieged by death. Who never made promises from a bed of hospital or from facing the danger of imminent death and yet forgets about his promises after the danger has passed? Diseases like cancer, AIDS and the like are common place for such experinces. The common experience of believer is to ask for a second chance when one insistently prays “Spare your people, Lord…, do not face us suddenly with death, but give us time to repent”. Yet, we know how patience can be abused sometimes with forgetfulness.
That’s why, God himself offers room to each one of us to renew the journey with him being close and available in order to make it possible to come back without fear. And Prophet Joel assures us that the Lord is ready to change because He is slow to anger, rich in graciousness; the first to take pity, the first to repent in order to keep his promises that will enable his beloved people to access salvation.
With insistence, God invites his believer to join him, acknowledging his weaknesses and re-engage in a new journey with him. Every year, mother Church engages all believers on this journey of Lent as favourable time of repentance, not as an annual monotonous exercise, but through the conviction that on the road to perfection there is need to rehearse, to begin always afresh to measure and appreciate the depth of the loving patience of God: tenderness and compassionate. Understanding it better, Saint Paul invites the Corinthians to take advantage of this favourable disposition to reconcile with God.
The readings from the gospel of Matthew and the book of the Prophet Joel give three attitudes that facilitate this reconciliation with God: fasting, weeping, mourning// fasting, alms, prayer. We are called to fast in order to humble ourselves before God; weep and mourn on our sins; feel the bad odour of our sins and shame of not being able to keep our promises to God; pray to ask for God’s grace to remain in continuous listening to him and give discretely alms in order to serve as channel of God’s grace and generosity towards the neediest, the weak and the poor of Yahve.
Today’s world is full of unaccomplished promises to people and to God. Our Lenten journey may be a success if we humble ourselves enough and try again to come back to the Lord and take the road to conversion, taking advantage of this favourable moment.
Let us pray:
Lord, take pity on your people!
Do not make of your heritage a thing of shame….
But, teach us to count our days that we may learn to come back to you
That, together with fasting, praying and giving alms, we may acquire the wisdom of heart.
Click here for the French version: Mercredi des cendres 2018