Today is Wednesday the 5th of March, Ash Wednesday.

The choir of Westminster Cathedral sing Allegri’s Miserere mei.   ‘Have mercy on me God, in your kindness, in your compassion, blot out my offence.’

As you hear these voices making this beautiful plea for God’s mercy, look around you. Can you see the need for it?  - Can you see a need for mercy here?  As you look at the people around you, as you look at their faces, can you imagine what need there might be in their lives for mercy and compassion?  For a few moments now, as you enter into prayer, ponder how much the world needs to hear the merciful, forgiving, compassionate word of God, and how much you may need to hear it, too.

Today’s reading is from the Prophet Joel.

The prophet Joel tells us, “Rend your hearts and not your clothing”.  We are often concerned about our external appearance –  how we look to other people – but God sees what is on the inside, what is in our hearts.   Does this come to me as a threat,... or as a relief? ..... How would I describe what is in my heart as I sit here now?

As I hear this invitation to turn back to God, do I feel that need in me?  Is there something that I need to turn back from, somewhere I’ve been going wrong in my life, something I want to change?

Though these words were written thousands of years ago, through them God speaks to us now.  As I listen to the passage again, I hear it this time as something addressed to me - God speaking personally to me.

How do I respond, here and now, to this appeal?  What do I want to say to God right now?