The readings were Joel 2:12-18, 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2 and Mathew 6:1-6,16-18 for the first reading, second reading and the gospel respectively.
In the first reading, the Prophet Joel is delivering a message to the people of Zion from God. God is asking His people, men, women and children alike to return to Him with their whole hearts, fasting and mourning for their sins. But that he is not looking at their outward appearance but the depth of their hearts, and He being a merciful, kind and gracious God will always be slow to anger, relent in punishment and shower them with His love.
During this Lent season , we are invited from the first reading to make changes in our lives. Prophet Joel tells us how God wants us to change on the inside and not just on the outside. So what change of attitude do you want to enact during this season? God tells us that He doesn't look at our garments but our hearts.I think the most reasonable change for any of us who call ourselves Children Of God would be to acknowledge our sins each time we falter this season and genuinely ask for God's forgiveness. Every time we sin, we are separated from the Love of God and all that comes with it and the only thing that brings us back into that love, is when we realize our faults and seek forgiveness for He freely gives it to us. That realization occurs within our hearts, and then we make a conscious decision to go to God in prayers, not only asking Him to forgive us but to change us from inside out because when that happens, then we become cautious of the things we say, think or do which limits our sinfulness.
In the second reading, Paul is calling us to be ambassadors for Christ, to reconcile ourselves to God for because of us, Christ became sin who knew no sin, that we might become His righteousness. He asked us to not receive the grace of God in vain for God heard us in an acceptable time and helped us in the day of salvation.
Paul calls us to be ambassadors for Christ at all times of our lives but especially during this season. We were made in the image and likeness of God and now we have been called to share the message of Christ's salvation.We have been called to be the medium which God uses to reach out to those in the darkness, to those who are blind in the word and to those who have not experienced His goodness.Lent is the perfect season for us to be these ambassadors because it is the period that Christ endured pain and was crucified for our sins and every body needs to be aware of what freedom we have because of that sacrifice.
In the Gospel, Jesus is basically warning us against false worship. That worship which we do in public such as telling everyone when we are fasting or looking famished because we are fasting, praying in the secrecy of our rooms instead of in public because God hears us from the comfort of those walls, and not doing charity work like helping the sick, needy, widows for others to see but because we are doing it for His kingdom.
Whatever we choose to do to honor God during this season of Lent needs to come from our hearts. Let us not be hypocrites or eye servants who say things but do not practice them or who only practice them when we have an audience. That is not to say we should not live out our faith for again, the Bible tells us that faith without works is dead. We have to be careful and know when and where to draw the line between being a plain show off or genuinely doing what He has called us to do. Jesus in the gospel mentioned fasting, praying and giving alms but the list goes far beyond. Whatever means you choose to honor God during this period, let it be from your heart and not because you have an audience to praise your works. For Jesus tells us that His Father in Heaven who is all-seeing would reward us in the secrecy of our hearts and homes.
Forty days may seem too long a time to set any goals and be able to achieve them. These forty days of Lent represent the forty days that Jesus spent in the wilderness and got tempted. The spirit of God was with Him and He was able to overcome all temptations that the devil teased Him with. It is always advisable to fast during these days but not all can do it.
Not to worry, there are other ways in which you can try to experience Christ during this period. They include but are not limited to volunteering your time, helping the poor, feeding the hungry, clothing those without, providing shelter, treating our bodies like the temple of God that they are by watching the things we eat and the things we do to it, preaching the good news, making sure that our thoughts, actions and words are all to the glory of His name.
It is a long period of time to do all these but we don't have to do it alone.If we can make resolutions to loose weight and accomplish it in however long it takes us, then we surely can follow through with this. Like Jesus who had the spirit of God guiding Him throughout in the wilderness, we need to ask God to never let His spirit depart from us. That His spirit should guide us like it did Jesus, that His spirit should be with us at all times to give us strength when we feel weak,courage when feel discouraged,passion in our hearts to keep going, lift us up if and when we fall.
It is not going to be an easy forty days but with God, we can do it. I hope that somehow i am able to chronicle mine for you here and hope that it inspires you or encourages you to keep going in yours. May God be with us all during this period of His suffering, when we come to first of all feel the pain He went through, be thankful for the sacrifice He made for us and rejoice when He resurrects on the third day.Let us go out there, be ambassadors for Christ in the way we live our lives these forty days and hopefully beyond.
Good luck to all of you participating in Lent and may God be your strength. Happy Ash Wednesday people and a blessed rest of the week.