Today is Wednesday the 14th of February, Ash Wednesday.
The Choir of Holy Sepulchre London sings, Miserere Mei Deus by Allegri:
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin.
As we arrive at this season of Lent, take a moment now to consciously step into the journey. What is it you are bringing with you today?
Miserere mei, Deus: secundum magnam misericordiam tuam.
Et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum, dele iniquitatem meam.
Amplius lava me ab iniquitate mea: et a peccato meo munda me.
Quoniam iniquitatem meam ego cognosco: et peccatum meum contra me est semper.
Tibi soli peccavi, et malum coram te feci: ut justificeris in sermonibus tuis, et vincas cum judicaris.
Ecce enim in iniquitatibus conceptus sum: et in peccatis concepit me mater mea.
Ecce enim veritatem dilexisti: incerta et occulta sapientiae tuae manifestasti mihi.
Today’s reading is from the Gospel of Matthew.
‘Beware of practising your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.
So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.’
At the beginning of Lent, we hear Jesus preach a message that sounded radical to his hearers. He preaches a faith of personal conversion rather than of religious observance. What hopes do you have for growth in your spiritual life as Lent begins?
Jesus emphasises interior faith rather than something public and ritualized. It may be so unobtrusive that even we ourselves don’t realise that it counts as faith. But God sees our responses of faith, hope and love, even when we don’t value or aren’t aware of them ourselves. How does that make you feel?
As we hear this reading repeated, allow Jesus’ words to resonate within you. What words of his catch the attention of your mind and heart in response?
Jesus clearly hopes that we will enjoy special times of fasting, prayer and almsgiving. What plans do you have to enjoy this Lent? Try listening to what God is offering you and talking to God about your own hopes.
You have given all to me
To you Lord, I return it
Everything is Yours
Do with it what you will
Give me only your love and your grace
That, is enough for me.