Page 4 - Lent2012v3b

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Ash Wednesday
Joel 2:12-18
Psalm 51:3-4, 5-6AB, 12-13, 14 & 17
2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
The themes of penance and conversion flow through all the readings on this first
day of Lent. The prophet Joel exhorts the Israelites to return to God and repent,
to bring about a true conversion of heart. Paul˅s second letter to the Corinthians
offers us a rationale for our repentance, that we have been reconciled to God
through Christ and his death on the Cross. The gospel passage from Matthew,
which is part of the Sermon on the Mount, underscores the depth of conversion
to which a disciple of Jesus is called, emphasizing purity of soul and the genuine
desire to repent, and criticizing public, temporary and hypocritical displays of
prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
This is the day to begin the path of return to God, to repent, to ˈcome homeˉ.
Our God, who is enduringly merciful, patient and compassionate, is waiting for us
to make a ˈU-turnˉ in our lives, to take on his holiness and return to his image in
which we were created. This task is not for the faint of heart or the weak, and we
are not expected to do it alone. As Megan McKenna, the well-known Catholic
writer and speaker observes, ˈWe must bend our wills and grab hold of one an-
other and walk together again as we usher one another into the presence of
Godˎ.Lent is about encouraging and giving fresh heart to those around us,
strengthening the bonds of community, reminding everyone that no one resists
evil alone, and recalling that we are already reconciled to
God in the cross of Jesus.ˉ
In today˅s gospel passage from Matthew, Jesus de-
scribes in no uncertain terms how we are to achieve this
radical change of heart: by prayer, fasting and almsgiv-
ing. However, he cautions us not to put on these acts
publicly for show, ready to set them ˈback on the shelfˉ