Reflection for Ash Wednesday

by Fr Z. Ngwenya

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JOEL 2: 12-18
PSALM 51: 3-6, 12-14, 17
2COR. 5: 20 – 6:2
Mt. 6:1-6, 16-18

With the celebration of Ash Wednesday, we begin the beautiful, profound time of Lent. Lent is a time of grace, a time if meeting with the Lord. Lent, the time of encounter with one’s own limit, with one’s own smallness, but also brothers and sisters, Lent, as the time of a joyful proclamation, that of the Gospel which is proclaimed even in the most painful moments. Well, the gospel tells the weak man that we are: Christ is risen from the dead and the limited man, of dust, arid, must rise again, not exalt himself but rise again. But you need to make choices. The Christian cannot only think of adapting to the events as they arise, accepting with habit that life flows by itself and imposes its laws on us.

From the first reading, the prophet Joel tells the people to tear their hearts not their garments. From this we learn that lent is the invitation to a choice of life, a choice beyond the things we see and do, beyond the exteriority we are used to, beyond what we touch with our hands; it is the passage from a material life to a spiritual life, where spirit and heart count. Lent is the time to cultivate the heart, so that it does not dry up and let itself be dominated by the fear and worries of life. The Prophet Joel underlines the need not to be dominated by the things that appear. What matters is not what others see, life does not depend on the approval of others or success, but on how much we have on the inside. Therefore, with a docile heart we need to return to the Lord. We need to implore the Lord to save his people.

In the passage of the Gospel we heard some words that show us the way: Practice justice, do good works, pray, which is standing face to face before the Lord, and Fasting, to remind us what is essential for our life. At the bottom of these important words we are offered something even more refined: we need to ask ourselves the direction of our life, or rather, the deepest and truest reasons with which to do and live what the Lord proposes to us. I would say, the soul with which we pray, with which we act, with which we walk, with which we are in relationship with others.

Lent helps us to mirror ourselves by asking ourselves if we do not do things to show off, to feel good and good … The Gospel warns each of us from the risk of swelling the heart, of focusing too much on our safety or on belief of being “someone” or of being important for the position I occupy or for what I do, or in believing myself better than others.

It is, therefore, a grace that we also have this year to be able to dedicate our time or to be able to see it as an opportunity that the Lord gives us to make of ourselves a renewed assembly in front of him. We heard it in second reading: “Here is the favourable moment, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2). These occasions that the Lord gives us are a grace to be put to good use. On this journey of Lent, always looking at Jesus, at his forty days in the desert, at his gestures, at his words, at his self-giving, at his fasting, may we come to know and to understand that which helped him overcome everything: his selflessness and his love.