Ash Wednesday, 22 February 2023
“Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. (Joel 2:12-13)
We live in a controversial time when everything we see, hear or read must be handled with sensitivity and caution. Never before have so many people had countless opportunities to play with the meaning of good and evil, light and dark. The age of pocket and mass media that has arrived with smart devices, marks access to tools that can change the meaning of what is happening around us with the flick of a finger. To represent light as darkness and darkness as light has never been so simple. Truth is formalized as a lie, evil as goodness, violence as a good deed. It is not known when, how and if this will ever end at all…
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of a time of reflection and calm – Lent. There are references in the scriptures of people, starting from the common people and including the rulers, rending their clothes, dressing in sackcloth, pouring ashes on their heads and prostrating themselves before God as a sign of remorse and repentance. Being freed of the burden, confessing one’s sins and feeling remorse because of them were not activities to be hidden in the back room of the home, where one could stand alone before God. Repentance was a public testimony of a longing to change and begin a renewed life.
It could also happen that someone tore their clothes as an outward sign to be on display for others. His heart remained not renewed but unrepentant. For this says the Lord: “Return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heart and not your garments. (Joel 2:12-13)
A sincere desire to change for the better and the outward signs that accompany it — prayer and fasting —must be the result of a deepened self-examination. The neighbour sees the outside facade, God knows the thoughts of the heart. The fruit of change and repentance is putting things in the right place, both in the heart and in actions. Then light will be light again, truth will remain true, and we will recognize darkness and untruth from afar.
At the beginning of Lent, we are guided by the words of the prophet Joel: “Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.” (Joel 2:13)
Wishing you a blessed Lenten season,