Scripture: Lectionary 220: Ash Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013. Joel 2:12-18. Psalm 51:3-4,5-6, 12-13.14-17. II Corinthians 5:20-6:2. Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
We are beckoned by the liturgical readings on this Ash Wednesday to begin this Lenten season as a community of believers. We take the great proclamation of Joel about fasting as a community summoned to believe with our hearts focused on the covenant of God made with Israel and to realize that the Eucharist is our communal act of a loving covenant sealed with the mystery of Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection. In a word we are to focus as a Church on the meaning of fasting that includes both the young, the religious, the leaders, the children of our Church. Joel has shown us the example of God’s people in every verse of his magnificent call to return to the Lord with all our hearts and souls. It is a spiritual fasting and a community one that is our Lenten journey to Jesus and with Jesus on the journey of faith, hope, and love. Joel even calls the newly- weds to join in this community venture. Thus we enter Lent not as a group of individuals but as the Body of Christ; his members united with him through our prayer, our generosity, and love.
Normally, we have focused on our individual acts of fasting and penance, However, the Scriptures are emphasizing our union as a body of believers who will support each other throughout this sacred season. It calls us to a different orientation of not giving up things but rather relating to others who are doing the same toward us. Our prayers are best done in a community setting where we share our faith and our worship. The Eucharist is our centering on what this communal dimension of Lent means. There we actually enter into the Paschal Mysteries. The liturgical readings help us to understand this focus and this call as the Body of Christ.
Individualism should be far from our minds and hearts in Lent. We see that the Scriptures for this Ash Wednesday are all addressed in the plural: we and us not I or you or they. We are not to be alone in our journey. There are no lone rangers or rugged individuals who are meant in these readings; it is all about us and our sense of belonging to the Body of Christ, to the Church, and to one another. In numbers there is strength and support to accomplish the smaller summons of Lent.
Psalm 51 expresses our hearts desires for forgiveness so that we may be free to be with each other this Lent. It is a no nonsense psalm that King David has given us as his followers during this Lent. Psalms will be an excellent way of praying with and for one another. The response is a summons in the plural: “Be merciful, Lord, for we have sinned.”
In Corinthians Paul likewise continues to call all of us: “We are ambassadors for Christ. We are fellow workers who realize “now is the acceptable time.”
In Matthew, Jesus addresses us as disciples (plural) not as individuals. We give to others, we fast with others, we pray with them remembering that Jesus is in our midst when we pray with others. One of our tasks is to help the other feel part of the Lenten season. We are in it together. Let us be open to the call of Joel, David, Paul, and Jesus as we being this new season of Lent. Amen.
Copyright 2013 Fr. Bertrand Buby, S.M.