A reading from the Book of the Prophet Joel 2:12-18
Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God. For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment. Perhaps he will again relent and leave behind him a blessing, Offerings and libations for the LORD, your God.
Blow the trumpet in Zion! proclaim a fast, call an assembly; Gather the people, notify the congregation; Assemble the elders, gather the children and the infants at the breast; Let the bridegroom quit his room and the bride her chamber. Between the porch and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep, And say, “Spare, O LORD, your people, and make not your heritage a reproach, with the nations ruling over them! Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’”
Then the LORD was stirred to concern for his land and took pity on his people.
REFLECTION: "Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;..."
Today is Ash Wednesday. An important reminder of our mortality and our need to prepare ourselves for that final vacation spot—the priceless gift of God’s mercy. Why do we have to fast, weep and mourn? Have we not already thanked God for all He has given us, have we not celebrated His birthday and the reason He was sent by His Father into this world?
We are reminded, especially today, that without Jesus we would never be eligible to go to heaven--no matter how much we work at it. Only Jesus can and has purchased our return ticket home. The very thing that made our return to the Father impossible was paid in full by Christ's death. Our Father paid the ultimate price to bring us home by the shedding of His Son’s blood for our salvation. We simply need to accept this free gift of forgiveness and Eternal life by receiving salvation through the grace of repentance.
As often as we commit sin, the more we have to fast, weep, mourn and rend our hearts to get back on our trip. Our ticket home will be null and void, if we don't stay on the right path. I, for one, many times don't "feel sinful". Yet, it is not about the feeling but about what I have done. Have I been prideful, lustful, angry, slothful, envious, greedy, or gluttonous? We fast to keep us away from sin, we mourn our sinfulness and what we caused to happen to Jesus. We give up the darkness in our hearts for great joy in living in the Word.
May this Lent guide us to keep our thoughts on the heart and life of Jesus. Pray especially for the priests. They are "in persona Christi" and will be very busy with confessions, retreats, Ash Wednesday, and preparing souls for that final journey. The priests are human and may tire and be grumpy at times. May we not break the ten commandments when we respond to their human nature. Remember they committed to God, sacrificed and emptied themselves of worldly possessions because the love for God was mightier than the love for themselves. We can help by praying the Prayer for Priest daily.
God Bless You