Readings: Joel 2:12-18; 2 Cor 5:20–6:2; Matt 6:1-6, 16-18
Scripture: Rend your hearts, not your garments . . . (Joel 2:13)
Reflection: What is it about Ash Wednesday that resonates so deeply with people that even those who have been away from church feel compelled to return and be reminded of their own mortality in the form of an ashen cross? It’s more than just ritual or obligation, I think. It’s primal—a spiritual practice that brings us back to our very core, that pulls us away from the worldly concerns that typically occupy our time and forces us to face the truth we so often want to avoid: We are dust, and to dust we shall return.
Today, marked with a somber sign of our faith, we go out into the world and bear witness to our broken humanity for all to see. The cross on our forehead is meant to leave a lasting imprint deep within, like a spiritual tattoo that will linger long after we complete this forty-day course correction known as Lent. For us to have any hope of coming out the other side renewed and reborn, change cannot be only skin deep. “Rend your hearts, not your garments,” we are reminded in the first reading. The sacrifices and prayers of the season help us clear a path, but we can’t stop there, not if we want to experience real transformation. God wants nothingless than our hearts broken open so that he might find a resting place within and make us whole. Yes, the exterior practices are important, but what matters most is what happens unseen within our hearts and souls.
Meditation: What spiritual plans have you made for Lent? Are they more focused on outward sacrifices or inward change? While the former is challenging, the latter can be downright intimidating. And yet, that is what we are called to do. What one thing can you do over the course of the next few weeks that might create a permanent change in your life? What would make you whole? Use the sacrifices and prayers of this season to open your heart, mind, and soul to what God has in store for you.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, guide us in right ways as we begin our Lenten journey. Give us the courage to allow ourselves to be transformed by your love. Help us to use our Lenten sacrifices to dig deep into our spiritual center and carve out a space for you alone.
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