Eucharistic Readings for Ash Wednesday (All Years)
Joel 2:1 to 2 and 12 to 17; Psalm 103; 2nd Corinthians 5:20 to 6:10 Matthew 6:1 to 6 and 16 to 21:
“But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:3 and 4)
Here we are in Lent again. Today starts Lent with Ash Wednesday. Many times people will come up to me to proclaim what they are giving up for Lent. They let their left hand know what their right hand is doing. Often their esteem for what they are giving up borders on idolatry. I then ask “to what charity is the money you would have used on your creature comforts, going to?” There is always a pause. Rarely is anyone thinking, in advance, about the charitable side of doing without in order to give to the less fortunate.
We should always have our eyes set on the “why” we are doing something rather than the “what” we are doing. Lent is a Church tradition. It is not biblical. We are reminded by Richard Hooker (Reformation, 17th Century Church of England Priest) that our 3-legged stool consist of Scripture, Tradition and Reason. Tradition then is where practice of Lent comes from. Why? It is our Church’s historic way of reconciling folk back into the fold and reminding all of us of the sacrifice our Lord Jesus made for our salvation.
Lent will not be “celebrated” with fancy sales or special ornaments. Lent can’t be purchased or hijacked with sleighs or bunnies. This is the season in which the Church is at its purest. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. It ends with Palm Sunday or the Sunday of the Passion which is the beginning of Holy Week which leads us into the Sunday of the Resurrection – Easter. All of this is part of our Church Tradition. Lent is a memory milestone wherein we remember the suffering of our Lord Jesus and reorient ourselves back to the importance of corporate worship.
The ashes on our foreheads remind us that we are dust and ashes made up of the chemicals found throughout the earth (and the universe). But with the Holy Spirit of God imbedded in us we are so much more. It is during Lent that we give thanks by emptying ourselves of all that is not necessary for our wellbeing and at the same time contributing to the welfare of the less fortunate who are also created in the Image of God. And we do not do this in a boastful way. “But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Giving to support the Ukrainian cause would be a good way to give this year.
As we listen to what the Spirit is saying to us, let us live to love, to serve, and to teach, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John