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Wednesday 6 March 2019: Ash Wednesday

Ashes to ashes – a return to God

Joel 2:1-2, 12-18; 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21


By Mark Woods

RC parish deacon and Diocesan Communications Officer in Arundel & Brighton Diocese


Context: a small suburban parish in the morning during working hours with a mainly retired congregation

Aim: to connect the symbol of the day with our actions


There is a modern trend for installing log burners and I must confess that we are no exception. This winter it has proved a great addition on cold winter nights bringing both heat and a cosy warmth in what the Danish call ‘hygge’- special moments with friends and family in a warm and cosy atmosphere. Burning wood, obviously, leaves a large amount of ash which must be cleaned away and disposed of. Much of it is added to the vegetable garden to feed the earth which we hope in summer will help bring forth vegetables in abundance. These fruits of the earth are then enjoyed over the summer and autumn. It is in many ways a virtuous circle as trees that have had to be cut down, eventually feed a fire, which then feeds the earth producing food to be eaten.

As we begin Lent, forty days of intensive prayer, fasting, reflection and deeper service to others we mark ourselves with ashes as a sign of this time. Like the ash of the fire at home it to can symbolically remind us that we to can bear fruit if we allow the true meaning of Lent to penetrate us.

The prophet Joel reminds us, as he does every year, that we need to turn back to God. The truth is if we do not allow ourselves to be fertilised by God’s word this Lent then we will find the ash placed on our foreheads will have had no effect. As Jesus reminds us in the Gospel this does not mean we must make a great show of our efforts, but we can quietly take on prayer, fasting and service of others. In that way the ash placed on our foreheads will bear fruit not just in this Lent but in the months and years to come.

The season of Lent is to be a time when we let the purifying love of Jesus take over our lives and allow our sins to be burnt to ashes which like the death of Jesus in Holy Week bring forth fruit in the resurrection at Easter.

So, this Lent let us be a prepared to let the ash of this day bring about in us the new life of Easter - create in us a new and purified life that echoes and reflect the one who is life, Jesus Christ.

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