It's Not Too Late. . .

A series of daily Lenten meditations on justice and peace

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Ash Wednesday, February 25, 1998

Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.

Readings: Joel 2:12-18, Psalm 51, 2 Corinthians 5:20 - 6:2, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

What power is commanded by the words of Joel today -- EVEN NOW, says the Lord, even after all that has happened, still I call out to you, return to Me with your whole entire heart and being -- fasting, weeping, mourning, rending your hearts in sorrow. Times were tough in Joel's day, which was probably about 400 BC, there was plenty to be sorry about. A plague of locusts had caused economic upheaval and famine. Jews were being sold into slavery by the Greeks. The rich were getting richer and the poor were starving. There wasn't much justice or peace and as always, these burdens fell hardest on those least able to protect themselves.

Two thousand four hundred years later, children are still starving, entire nations are held hostage to ruthless political ambitions, and governments everywhere make war on the poor with impunity. Tens of millions of unborn children have been murdered by abortion, additional tens of millions of people have been murdered by war this century alone. Everywhere the structures of sin identified by the Holy Father -- the overwhelming thirst for power at any price, and the overwhelming thirst for profit at any price -- are rampant and often victorious.

But it's not too late. It's never over until it's over. We do not have to keep re-inventing the flat tire. We can learn from our mistakes, change our ways, and disrupt the on-rushing process of history, right here, right now. Today Paul the Apostle begs us to be reconciled to God. Today is in fact the day of salvation. All who are in Christ become New Creations.

So we sing with the Psalmist, "Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness, in the greatness of your compassion, wipe out my offense. We fast, we pray, we give alms, we practice abstinence, and we examine our conscience. We question our uncritical embrace of the modern and post-modern consumer cultures and their associated philosophies of instant gratification, radical ultimate personal autonomy, predatory competition, materialism, moral indifference, dehumanization, depersonalization, alienation and angst. We consider how the choices we make affect our daily lives and the lives of those around us. We examine our personal sins of omission and commission and our willing personal participation in the structures of sin that are eating away at the foundations of family, culture, civilization, and community everywhere in the world.

This is the day where we find our hunger for God as we fast and abstain, breaking established patterns and building new habits of virtue and goodness. We reduce our consumption, that there may be more for everybody, remembering that prudence is a virtue, and frugality is its associated discipline. Where there is hatred, there we will sow peace. Then the Lord was stirred to concern for his land and took pity on his people.

Prayer Intentions +

For those without bread, that they will be fed, and for those who have bread, that they will hunger for God.

For those at risk of death due to war or economic chaos, that they will be prepared for the violence that is upon them.

For Saddam Hussein, Bill Clinton, Kofi Annan, and all others with responsibility in the Persian Gulf crisis, that peace and reconciliation will prevail.

For the holy and devout observance of the Lenten disciplines of fasting, abstinence, prayer, and alms-giving, leading to repentance and renewed life in Christ.

Praxis today

+ Fast and abstain from meat in accordance with the calling of the Church.

+ Go to Ash Wednesday Mass and be marked with the ashes on your forehead.

+ Make a list of people that you need to be reconciled with. Remember: Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

+ Pick up at least five pieces of trash in a public place and dispose of them properly.

Prepared by Robert Waldrop, justpeace webservant

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