Ash Wednesday and my Favorite Old Testament Passage

Today is Ash Wednesday the beginning of Lent and the reason why so many people got drunk etc yesterday because traditionally this began a period of fasting and sacrificing to bring us closer to God and while many have abandoned the fasting/prayerful reflection part they’ve kept with full force the last big debauch.

Ash Wednesday is not the most popular devotion out there, you are given ashes which is a reminder of our mortality “Remember man that thou art dust and to dust you shall return.” Although because some consider that reminder too harsh a “Repent and believe in the Gospel” is substituted in some parishes.

But what I’ve always loved about Ash Wednesday is the first reading from scripture at Mass. Every Year the first reading is always this passage from the prophet Joel

Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the LORD, your God.
For gracious and merciful is he,
slow to anger, rich in kindness,
and relenting in punishment.
Perhaps he will again relent
and leave behind him a blessing,
Offerings and libations
for the LORD, your God.

Blow the trumpet in Zion!
proclaim a fast,
call an assembly;
Gather the people,
notify the congregation;
Assemble the elders,
gather the children
and the infants at the breast;
Let the bridegroom quit his room
and the bride her chamber.
Between the porch and the altar
let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep,
And say, “Spare, O LORD, your people,
and make not your heritage a reproach,
with the nations ruling over them!
Why should they say among the peoples,
‘Where is their God?’”

Then the LORD was stirred to concern for his land
and took pity on his people.

Joel 2 12-18

Even now! Those are words of power and hope. Most importantly there are no qualifiers to those words

  • Even Now….unless you’ve had an abortion
  • Even now….unless you’ve cheated on your spouse
  • Even now…..unless you are a thief
  • Even now…..unless you are a drug dealier
  • Even now…..unless you are a murder
  • Even now…..unless you are a terrorist
  • Even now…..unless you are an atheist
  • Even now…..unless you promote sodomy
  • Even now…..unless you’ve sold your soul to the devil

In other words, it doesn’t matter what you’ve done in the past or where you are, if you are willing to turn your heart to God, his outstretched hand will be there.

And note the time given is the ever present NOW, the time that every man spends their entire life in. As long as you have breath in your body, even if that breath is your last God will accept your return in that ever present now.

Does that mean that the path that follows will be painless? Nope.

Does it mean that the path will be easy? Nope.

But it means that path is available at every present moment of your life and that the time to embrace the forgiveness of God is always NOW.

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