A Lenten Reflection on Ash Wednesday

Readings for Ash Wednesday:
Joel 2:12-18; 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2; Matthew 6:1-6,16-18

What is Lent?
It is a 40-day season of prayer, fasting, and alms giving that is a preparation for Easter.

What is Easter?
It is the commemoration and celebration of what God did for us through Jesus Christ.

What did Jesus do?
He lived among us and gave us a vision of a full life (not just a religion). He suffered and died on a cross, not as a sign of failure, but as a testimony of the greatest love a person can show for a friend – to die for him. Through that death Jesus entered a new life, and he opened the door for us to share with him the same fullness of life, a life that can begin here and now and go on without end.

Why six weeks?
Six weeks is about 40 days, and Jesus spent 40 days in the desert preparing for his work and mission.

How are we to prepare for Easter?
The Gospel suggests three areas: prayer, fasting and giving alms. These practices are common to all major religions: Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity.

In practice, how are we to do these things?
Each person needs to make his or her own choices.

Prayer can include:

  • Taking part in a Eucharist every morning
  • Setting aside a short period for meditation or reflection
  • Doing some Bible reading and study (using Living Space)
  • On the web, visiting a prayer website such as Sacred Space

Fasting can involve:

  • Traditionally, people have given up some nice thing they like but don’t really need, like sweets, chocolate, dessert.
  • Many can cut down on alcohol or nicotine or any other addictive substance, perhaps as part of a permanent giving up. It can help to motivate if we remember these things are not very good for us anyway.

Alms giving can:

  • Be linked to fasting. For example, money saved from giving up superfluities may be redirected to helping those who do not have necessities for life.
  • Help us become more aware of the needs of others.
  • Help us to realise that real fulfilment comes in making my contribution to building a more just society for all.

What else is important about Lent?
Lent is a time to become more aware of what life is about, to become more aware of how I want to use my life, my gifts, my education. Let us strive to use this Lenten season in a really constructive and productive way.

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