Lectionary Reflections: Ash Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Engaging Faith | Fri, Feb 28, 2014

By john Bucki, SJ
Source: Center of Concern

Lectionary Reflections: Ash Wednesday

March 5, 2014

Copyright @ 2014, Center of Concern


Joel 2:12-18

2 Corinthians 5:20—6:2

Matthew 6:1-6,16-18



March 5: Ash Wednesday, Start of Lent

March 8: International Women’s Day

March 9: Daylight Savings Time begins in most places in the United States



“The Christian message does not inhibit men and women from building up the world, or make them disinterested in the welfare of their fellow human beings: on the contrary it obliges them more fully to do these very things.”

- Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes, No. 34


“We must reject the temptation to offer a privatized and individualistic spirituality.”

- Pope John Paul II, Message for Lent at the End of the Jubilee Year


“In the face of the terrible challenge of poverty afflicting so much of the world’s population, indifference and self-centered isolation stand in stark contrast to the ‘gaze’ of Christ.”  

- Pope Benedict XVI, Message for Lent 2006


“Fasting is an aid to open our eyes to the situation in which so many of our brothers and sisters live… Voluntary fasting enables us to grow in the spirit of the Good Samaritan, who bends low and goes to the help of his suffering brother.”

- Pope Benedict XVI, Message for Lent 2009


“In imitation of our Master, we Christians are called to confront the poverty of our brothers and sisters, to touch it, to make it our own and to take practical steps to alleviate it.”

- Pope Francis, Message for Lent 2014


“What hinders this humane and loving gaze towards our brothers and sisters? Often it is the possession of material riches and a sense of sufficiency, but it can also be the tendency to put our own interests and problems above all else. We should never be incapable of ‘showing mercy’ towards those who suffer. Our hearts should never be so wrapped up in our affairs and problems that they fail to hear the cry of the poor.”

- Pope Benedict XVI, Message for Lent 2012


“Reading the Bible with the eyes of the poor is a different thing from reading it with a full belly. If it is read in the light of the experience and the hopes of the oppressed, the Bible's revolutionary themes – promise, exodus, resurrection and spirit – come alive.”

- Jurgen Moltmann, “The Church in the Power of the Spirit”


Thoughts for your consideration

         The prophet Joel calls for an assembly of all the people.

         Blow the trumpet in Zion!

         proclaim a fast,

         call an assembly;

         Gather the people,

         notify the congregation;

         Assemble the elders,

         gather the children

         and the infants at the breast;


We are more than individuals looking out for ourselves.

Reform in any age is a call for the community to come together for the common good.

In our day we must come together to address the challenges of global climate change, an over-dependence on fossil fuels, the destructive mining of limited resources, the lack of a commitment to develop renewable sources of energy, and the need for responsible sharing of what we have for the common good.

In our day we must come together to address the challenges of peace between and within nations and ethnic groups, the tendency to try to resolve disputes by war rather than reconciliation, the use of so many valuable resources to produce more weapons of war instead of addressing human needs, and the culture of violence that pervades our world. 

In our day in the United States, we must come together to renew our dysfunctional political system, to create a government less controlled by people with money and influence and to address the needs of all the people and the common good.

In our day we must come together to address the needs of the poor, whether it be the poor in our nation or the billions who have to try to live on less than two dollars a day.  We must come to together to resolve the problem of income inequality in our American society and in the world as a whole, and to create a world of economic justice for all.

In our day we must come together to make sure that all people enjoy basic human rights, an end to racial and ethnic discrimination, protection from torture, unjust imprisonment and oppression, an end to slavery and trafficking, and the right to free speech and economic opportunity.

In our day we must be come together to put into practice the radical loving vision of Jesus Christ.


More thoughts for your consideration

Lent is a time to make faith real in practices which are a source of growth, life and even joy. Growth and new life are possible. It is possible to move beyond earning religious credits or spiritual merit badges to freedom, joy, justice, peace and new life. It is possible to move beyond a spirituality of showing off to a spirituality of awareness and new life for the whole community. It is possible for the whole community to be renewed with a spirit committed to the common good of all God’s people – a spirit dedicated to justice and peace.  It is possible to live a spirituality which is in touch with the real world and its problems – especially the poor. The prophet Joel calls the whole community to renewal and writes: “Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart…”

It is possible to move from a superficial sort of prayer or a show-off type of religious practice to something that is genuine and life-giving and transforming. Prayer can be connected to life. Prayer can be rooted in an awareness of oneself and the world as it is. Prayer can move us toward concern for others. Prayer can move us toward a concern for justice and peace. Prayer can connect us with those who are poor or in need who can nourish this prayer. 

It is possible to move from fasting as a burden or painful sacrifice to a religious exercise that makes us aware and alive. Fasting can move us to solidarity with the poor and the hungry and can also put us in touch with our own self and our own desires. Our Christian spirituality reminds us that from awareness without judgment can come freedom and life – a whole new way of looking at things – a way of looking at things that is less self-absorbed and more sensitive to others, especially the poor. 

It is possible to move from a painless almsgiving out of our surplus or a showing-off kind of almsgiving or an almsgiving that make us feel superior to others to a practice that makes us aware of the needs of others and leads us to a deep and real solidarity with those who are otherwise separate from ourselves. It might even to be possible to move through acts of charity toward acts for justice in solidarity with those who experience injustice.  


For Reflection in your Faith Sharing Group

What kind of fasting will help you get your values in order this Lent?

What kind of prayer will help you be more aware of those in need?

What kind of almsgiving and good works will help you move away from selfishness?


In May of 2000, John Paul II said, “Solidarity is learned through ‘contact’ rather than through ‘concepts,’ and should permeate the sphere of being before that of acting.”  What events have helped you to have contact with those in need?  What events during this Lenten season will help you have a healthy contact with those who are in need?  What during this Lenten season will help you get in touch with the needs of the world?



Jock, the painter, often would thin his paint so it would go further. So when the church decided to do some deferred maintenance, Jock was able to put in the low bid, and got the job. As always, he thinned his paint way down with turpentine.

One day while he was up on the scaffolding – the job almost finished – he heard a horrendous clap of thunder, and the sky opened.

The downpour washed the thinned paint off the church and knocked Jock off his scaffold and onto the lawn among the gravestones and puddles of thinned and worthless paint.

Jock knew this was a warning from the Almighty, so he got on his knees and cried: “Oh, God! Forgive me! What should I do?”

And from the thunder, a mighty voice: “REPAINT! REPAINT! AND THIN NO MORE!”



Actions - Links

Message of Pope Francis for Lent 2014

“He became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” (cf. 2 Cor 8:9)

Find the message at:

God’s wealth passes not through our wealth, but invariably and exclusively through our personal and communal poverty, enlivened by the Spirit of Christ. In imitation of our Master, we Christians are called to confront the poverty of our brothers and sisters, to touch it, to make it our own and to take practical steps to alleviate it… When power, luxury and money become idols, they take priority over the need for a fair distribution of wealth. Our consciences thus need to be converted to justice, equality, simplicity and sharing.


Carbon Fast

Lent is a time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  In light of the danger of climate change and environmental destruction of the earth as we know it, in recent years some people in the church have proposed that Christians take part in a “Carbon Fast” during Lent.  Get more info about the effort at or  or

“The environment is God’s gift to everyone, and in our use of it we have a responsibility towards the poor, towards future generations and towards humanity as a whole.”

- Pope Benedict, Caritas in Veritate


“I was a stranger.” Challenge

Find forty days of scripture about welcoming immigrants.


 “Crazy Facts”


Lenten Prayer

A Jesuit Online Daily Reflection for Lent and Early Easter

Ash Wednesday is March 5. The Jesuits of the United States have designed a program of prayer and reflection and they’re inviting everyone to join in. “Moved to Greater Love” is a nine-week digital prayer experience, which begins the week of Ash Wednesday and concludes the second week after Easter. Sign up at 


Prayers of Intercession

Response:  Lord, help us return to your way of life.

For the grace to focus on the common good before our personal needs and perspectives, we pray…

For an end to our selfishness and greed, we pray…

For an end to all those policies that promote war, violence, torture, and the denial of human rights, we pray…

For an end to our policies and practices that deny people quality health care, we pray…

For an end to our misplaced priorities that result in a world where not everyone has enough to eat and a decent place to life, we pray…

For an end to all our practices that result in the abuse of our planet, we pray…

For an end to all hunger and malnutrition, we pray…

For policies and practices that give every person an equal opportunity to participate in our society and its resources, we pray…

For a new vision and a new set of behaviors that promote hope, dignity and life for all, we pray…


Prayer - Meditation

O God, who out of nothing brought everything that is,

out of what I am bring more of what I dream but haven’t dared;

direct my power and passion to creating life where there is death,

to putting flesh of action on bare-boned intentions,

to lighting fires against the midnight of indifference,

to throwing bridges of care across canyons of loneliness;

so that I can look on creation, together with you,

and, behold, call it very good;

through Jesus Christ My Lord.

- From “Bring More of What I Dream” by Ted Loder In Guerrillas of Grace


“Confronted by the conflict, slaughter, and seemingly endless anguish in so many other places in our world, we wonder how God can allow such things to happen. The Old Testament describes how the people of Israel suffered war, violence, famine, persecution, and exile, and how they tried to find the presence of the loving God of the covenant in all those harsh realities.  [We have] an opportunity to reflect and pray on the good and evil which happens. As we meet and work with refugees who have confronted evil and suffering, it is important to remind them and ourselves as well to keep in touch with God, the source of all good and love. This is the only way to withstand evil.”

From Jesuit Refugee Services: Praying with Refugees