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40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II Ash Wednesday, 22 February 2023 Joel 2:12-18 ><))))*> 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2 ><))))*> Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
Our opening antiphon of today's celebration of Ash Wednesday gives hint of the joyful tone of our Lenten journey: "You are merciful to all, O Lord, and despise nothing that you have made. You overlook people's sins, to bring them to repentance, and you spare them, for you are the Lord our God."
Amid the shades of violet to signify our confession of sin and movement of repentance is also a profession of our faith in your love, kindness and mercy, O God our Father! The joy of Lent is YOU, O God our loving Father who lavishes us with mercy in Christ Jesus.
Thank you for calling us to enter into this holy season of Lent; let us not forget that YOU are the center and focus of this journey, never us despite the good works we all have to do like praying, fasting and alms-giving; YOU are the one whom we must please, not people so they may return to you; YOU are not appeased by what we offer and do; in fact, we are able to come to you because you are "gracious and merciful" - we have come to know you by your concrete actions of love and mercy, kindness and tenderness.
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.
Rend our closed hearts, O Lord; tear apart the hard coverings of bitterness and rejection, doubts and mistrust so we may open ourselves to your coming in Christ Jesus; strengthen our hearts so we may come back to you in genuine conversion, to be reconciled to you, O God, for "now is a very acceptable time, the day of salvation" (2 Cor. 5:20, 6:2).
Grant us the right attitude of heart, take away our vanities and hypocrisies that neither deceive you nor fool people; let us get inside ourselves to meet you right inside us where you dwell, waiting for us to console us, to refresh us, to comfort us. Amen.