One simple question. Why do we fast? And a simpler question. If our fast is directed to draw the attention of God why does anyone need to know?



Ash Wednesday is the gateway to a season of repentance. Unfortunately, too many of us misunderstand repentance and associate it too closely with sorrow and darkness.

The truth is that repentance means merely rethinking or thinking again. Truly we are sorry for our sins, but that sorrow should not color the whole season because repentance is an invitation to a new life. We should express our sorrow for sin in the way we treat Jesus. Not by more and more prayers and mortification, but rather by how we treat Jesus in the flesh — our brothers and our sisters.

Recall that Jesus tells us over and over again that it is not those who call Him “Lord” who will gain entrance to heaven, but those who show Him love and obedience. How? “Whatsoever you do unto one of these, the least of my little ones, that you do unto me.”

So then, in this season of repentance let us rethink how we treat one another. With the certain aid of the Holy Spirit, let us focus not on sin, but on service — service to one another and therefore to God. For if we are truly focused on serving, we will not readily sin, because our focus is truly on what God desires — unconditional love of all His precious children.

Lent invites us into a deep joy, for we are known by God as imperfect people but we are loved by God as forgiven.  The deeply forgiving love God extends to us is like an invitation to renew our relationship with God.

Yes, it might be a period of simplicity, paring down and clearing away the things that are getting in the way between us and God.  Lent can be a time to take a clear-eyed look at ourselves and honestly see who we are, just as God does.  But it’s a time of great hope, as we realize how much God longs for a relationship with us.

That doesn’t mean we focus on us and our failings, but we can look at the way our lack of freedom gets in the way of our relationships with God.  An honest look at ourselves as flawed creatures of God doesn’t mean we give up. Rather we can rejoice in knowing that there is nothing we have done, no act or way of life, no hidden sin so deeply tucked away in our souls, that God does not forgive in us.

Can we imagine the next six weeks as time to spend with one who loves us so much, who forgives and comforts us and rejoices in our love?  And isn’t that celebration of love even deeper and more joyful if we have been separated from God for a while?

Today many of us will have our foreheads marked by a cross of ashes.  It is a shocking symbol of our own mortality and of the sacrifice Jesus made for us with his death.  It is also a public marking that reminds us – and others – of God’s message to us, “I created you for myself and gave you my only son to free you from sin and death.  Even now, I am calling you, drawing you closer to myself so that someday, I can celebrate with you a never ending banquet of love.”

The ashes on our forehead are more than a symbol of our own mortality. They are a sign of God fighting for our freedom from this world, liberating us from the clutches of so many things that drag us away from God.

Today Jesus is calling us to himself in an ever-deeper way, inviting us into his endless forgiveness and asking us to return to his loving embrace.  With tears of joy, we can accept his outstretched arms.  When I was a girl my sense of Ash Wednesday was that we were lost.  Now I see that we are found!

One simple question. Why do we fast? And a simpler question. If our fast is directed to draw the attention of God why does anyone need to know? We humans are so vain in our wanting people to know; in doing that our only intention being impressing upon them, trying to tell them we’re doing something holy, something to please God, something in the context of working for God – supporting His work, praying for His people, helping someone as He will have wanted of us. If it is enough for God to know then only God needs to know – when we help someone, when we pray for someone, when we pray to Him, when we fast…

As we are at the outset of yet another season of lent and the grace of God is upon us all, let us keep all of this just between us and God. Will it lose its charm if no one knows? It will to the extent that no one will know of our ‘holy’ pursuits, but it will only be more charming which we will discover, if we keep it between ourselves and our God to whom it is directed.



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