Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ash Wednesday

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

We might be excused for associating the discipline of Lent with exhibiting a lack of self-worth. After all, we are, right at the very beginning, with the imposition of ashes, likely to hear the words: Remember you are dust, and unto dust you shall return. Today, and throughout the season, the word that jumps out repeatedly is Repent. And, even in our first fervor to embrace some spiritual practice to assist our sanctification, we discover all too quickly, sometimes even before the week is out, the extent of our weakness and the intensity of our cravings.

However, the Church places before us today not a message of gloom, but the joyous announcement of our great honor: We are ambassadors for Christ. Now, an ambassador has no glory or honor of his own. It is certainly true that an ambassador does not speak from his own authority, nor does his pursue his own agenda. Rather his authority and his agenda come from the king who sent him.

Even so, an ambassador is not a mere messenger. He acts not simply to convey a message, but with the great authority and status which have been conferred upon him. He can, both in the days of St Paul and in the present, meet personally with princes, kings, and heads of state, no matter what the condition of his birth because, as an ambassador, he shares in the authority and status of the one in whose name he acts.

More than that, the ambassador acts not automatically, not in the mode of a recorded message, nor as the mere mouthpiece of another. Rather, he is intended to draw upon his own freedom and to use to the full his own gifts and creativity in advancing the cause of his king and country. He does not choose the message, but he is free to, indeed he is both expected and obliged to make known that message as he best sees fit, as his own talents and insights provide and allow.

This is why we take on once again the discipline of Lent. It is not as though we are trying to chastise an unworthy self. Instead, we seek better to accomplish our noble and exalted task as ambassadors for Christ, announcing to the world the will, the saving and redeeming will, of God our King. So, we pray, that we might better know Christ's will, by whose authority we speak and act. We fast, that we might better pursue not our own purposes, but those of him who sent us. We give alms, that others may better know through our very personal, individual, creatively free responses to the forgiveness that we have received in the Gospel, the reconciliation offered to the whole world in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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