by Brayton Shanley

February 14, 2018

Joel 2:12-18, 2 Corinthians 5:20—6:2, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

“Even now, says the Lord, return to me with fasting and weeping, and mourning.” Joel 2:13

Lent is a time for fasting, and Ash Wednesday is one of the most spiritually propitious days to fast as we prepare to undertake the 40 days of Lent. Our God through the prophet Joel proclaims, “Even now, return to me by the way of fasting,” a God-inspired fast that turns the searchlight within. A fast that helps us to repent, to change, to cleanse our inner condition which causes us and those around us to suffer.

This asceticism is the holy fire of the empty stomach. It is the God of Mercy, calling us to feel Divine Presence as we begin these sacred days. Presence and reassurance of our God of love is enhanced through “ascesis,” the religious practice of self-denial, abstaining from all food and liquid, but not water for a propitious amount of time.

A common Jewish practice, Jesus himself fasted regularly and instructs us in Matthew: “When you fast…anoint your head and wash your face.” And when you do: “Your Abba God who sees what is hidden will repay you.” No self-righteous gloominess!

As you prepare for the 40 days of lent, ask yourself, “How much am I willing to change, to feel God’s reassurance?”

Reflection from PCUSA’s Lent ebooklet, “Go Forth & Live in Peace”