Thursday, March 2nd
READ: Joel 2:12-13
Years ago I attended an Ash Wednesday service at a local Catholic Church. It was beautiful and fascinating, albeit a bit disorienting. The sanctuary was filled with people who moved effortlessly through rituals as if they were second nature. I tried to keep up, but sadly I had little idea what was happening. Stand. Sit. Kneel. I felt lost, and yet even in my lostness these practices seemed so filled with significance, the priest seeking to lead His parishioners through liturgical movements like a sacred dance directing them towards repentance and a heightened focus on Jesus. It was a wonderful experience, and yet there was one attribute of that day that still haunts me.
Because the rituals of Ash Wednesday were new to my eyes they possessed great power to captivate the attention of my heart. Yet, when I surveyed the room many of the faces seemed bored and lifeless.
For reasons I can’t pretend to know, those rituals that deeply moved me seemed to miss them entirely.
Reading the Bible you will surely find people who have turned once life-giving, God-honoring practices into cold religion. For the people described in Joel 2, God wants more than torn garments, an outward sign of repentance. God knows that outward displays will never accomplish what a broken heart can. So God asks for what he’s really after, truly repentant hearts, grieved by their sin and bent on returning to God.
As the Lenten season begins, may we resist the temptation to religiously abstain from something outwardly while remaining unrepentant and unchanged inwardly.
PRAY: God, as this Lenten season begins, I set my heart on You. Let my actions and my heart be unified as I trek towards Easter this year.