Scripture: Isaiah 58:1-12
Ash Wednesday marks the start of the Lenten Season, a 40-day period of reflection and meditation in which we are encouraged to take stock of our spiritual lives as we travel toward Easter Sunday. As we set out on this journey, I offer you a little information about the day itself.
Ash Wednesday is a day, especially in the Roman Catholic Church, when the faithful make their way to church to have ashes, in the sign of a cross, placed on their foreheads, indicating that it is their intention to actively pursue a path of spiritual enlightenment during the 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday. Typically, the ashes that are used on Ash Wednesday come from the burnt palm branches that were waved during Palm Sunday celebrations from the previous year.
In the Middle Ages, Lent became a time of extreme denial. All worldly pleasures such as rich food, parties and sex were forbidden. In some cases, penitent followers would lash themselves as an outward sign of their inner remorse at their sinful lives. Thankfully, most of these extreme practices have been abandoned and Lent has rightfully become a time of quiet spiritual contemplation, providing us with an opportunity to put our faith into action.
As Christians, we are to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen. We are called to be God’s people. To share our food with the hungry (our weekly contributions to the Calgary Inter-faith Food Bank); to take the homeless into our house (our new relationship with the Inn From the Cold Society); to clothe the naked (our donation of household goods during Advent, 2014); to care for the most vulnerable among us (our recent renovation of the Nursery, transforming it into a place of safety and beauty for babies).
As followers of the way and as Isaiah instructs us, we are to restore houses in ruin, we are to offer freedom to the captive and we are to give of ourselves to others. God will abide with us in all of this by offering us his compassion and love. We are to serve as the hands and feet of Christ. We must not become complacent with the status quo. We must say to the world that we can and should do better.
We are to be a light to the world. As the children’s hymn says, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.” God invites us to join him on the journey.
by Michael White
God of justice and compassion, as I begin my Lenten journey, may the words of Isaiah guide my path and challenge me to see the world through God’s eyes. Let me never close my ears to the cries of the hungry, the homeless and the brokenhearted. AMEN