From Ashes to Ashes
John 2:12-18; Psalm 51:1-17; 2 Corinthians 5:20 to 6:2; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
Sorry for this late post, but this was intended for yesterday. Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, which marks the start of a 40-day liturgical period of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Historically, Jesus Christ spent 40 days fasting in the desert, where he endured temptation by Satan. It is on this day that we are reminded of who we are where we came from, who made us, and where we are heading at the end of this life. Nothing is permanent in this world. From ashes we came, and so we leave in ashes. The Lord can take away what He so generously gives, anytime He wishes to. But we are also reminded of God’s mercy when God had to make Himself human so that mankind could redeem himself. Since no human is perfect and sinless, Jesus had to come down and sacrifice Himself for us, cleansing us from all our sins, so that we may be reconciled with God. Such is God’s love.
The 40 days of prayer and fasting is for us to focus on what evil we did in the past, and for us to repent. It is a time to reflect on ourselves, recognize our sins and approach the Lord in broken spirit, and in gratitude for His mercy. We fast so that our focus on the Lord may be clearer, void of any distractions in life. This is our alone moments with our Lord.
In Matthew 6, as we read it, we will realize that fasting was a regular thing back in the days of Jesus. “When you fast” and not “If you fast”. It is not an optional thing, but is what’s expected of us.
A normal person who has realized his mistakes toward the person he committed sin against, will be apologetic and will want to make it up to him. Likewise, if we truly recognize our sins and truly repent, we will have the natural desire to want to pray to the Lord, to fast and help others out in any way we can.
In the bible, it is repeatedly mentioned that when we fast, we shouldn’t let anyone know that we are fasting. We fast out of being remorseful and out of the desire to be deeply in commune with the Lord, without any distractions in life, no matter how subtle they may be. This is a private matter between you and the Lord, and doesn’t concern others. You don’t have to show others that you are fasting. Same thing with helping others. Do not let the left hand know what the other hand is doing. Do everything silently and humbly, for there is no need to announce anything because the Lord sees what’s in your heart.
I would highly suggest that you fast once a week, and not just during Lenten period, to strengthen our relationship with the Lord and keep ourselves in check regularly. This way, we will always be reminded of God’s love and mercy, and what matters most in this life, and to keep ourselves in check as well.
God’s grace is always there. The salvation offered by Jesus is there. We just have to accept it. As ambassadors of Christ, we should also allow this grace to be available to others.