ASH WEDNESDAY Joel 2 vs. 1-2; 12-17 and Matthew 6 vs. 1-6
It may be a safe assumption to say most of us do not look forward to forty days of Lent like we do the season of Advent. The anticipation of Christmas, the preparations, the parties we don’t experience that with Lent. However, without the Resurrection we would have no need of Christmas. Lent is a more intimate time because of the lack of fanfare. It is a time to focus on our connection with God.
The first reading is from the book of Joel, a minor prophet, we probably have never read, who is calling the Jewish people to repent through “fasting, community prayer and heartfelt contrition”; this in the midst of a natural disaster! The Jewish people had turned away from God and Joel was calling them to turn back so they could experience God’s blessings. You say, “That sounds wonderful but I’m too busy to pray and I don’t know how.” I contend you do know how to pray, we just don’t see a benefit unless we need something.
The second reading is a more familiar one from the book of Matthew that actually gives you direction on how to pray. If you continue to read the passage it introduces the Lord’s Prayer. While the Our Father can be a rout prayer it is very succinct in its form and covers the purpose of prayer. The instruction in Matthew continues on the way you should fast. Fasting, hum, a real sticking point especially in light of those failed New Year Resolutions. Abstaining is a way to draw your attention back to God. It could be a abstaining from food but it could also be changing your routine so prayer has a place in your schedule.
So what do I hope for myself and for you this Lent, I hope you will open a bible and read the scripture. Ask God to show you what it means to you and then sit silently and listen. Give the gift to yourself of undivided attention to these passages over the next five days. Read them over and over. It is awesome how each time you can see something different. God is still speaking, are you listening?
 Introduction The Book of Joel(copyright blblica.com 1973). http://www.biblica.com