Faith Daily | 17 February 2021

PRAYER of the WEEK Ash Wednesday Prayer of the Season

Almighty and everlasting God,

you hate nothing that you have made,

and you forgive the sins of all who are penitent:

create and make in us new and contrite hearts,

that we, worthily lamenting our sins,

and acknowledging our wretchedness,

may obtain of you, the God of all mercy,

perfect remission and forgiveness;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen APBA p481

GOSPEL for the Day: Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-21

‘Beware of practising your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.

2 ‘So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 3But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.*

5 ‘And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 6But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.*

16 ‘And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 17But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.*

19 ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust* consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust* consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

GOSPEL Reflection: Contributed by Rev'd Jonathan

Way back in 1999, I was fortunate enough to be part of a group touring Turkey and Egypt, two Muslim-majority nations. It just so happened to be during the fasting month of Ramadan, so that we witnessed at firsthand what happens when virtually a whole city chooses not to eat during daylight hours: empty cafes during the day and then a frenzy of activity as soon as evening falls, with huge amounts being consumed, as if to make up for the calories missed. As our bus took us around, I also noticed several men with strange marks on their foreheads, and I figured this must be more than coincidence. Sure enough, our guide told us that some men were in the habit of attempting to demonstrate that they have worshipped so frequently in the mosque, touching their forehead to the mat, that it has left them with a carpet burn!

It is easy to smile at such public attempts to display devoutness when it comes from another culture, but of course we would do well to reflect on our own habits and patterns of thought in 2021 Australia.

For example, today many of us will receive a cross mark in ash on our foreheads, and almost immediately we will need to decide how long we keep it there. Some will wipe it off at the end of the service; some will keep it on all day. Which is the “best” approach?

Perhaps Jesus’ words in Matthew 6 can help us decide, by causing us to examine our innermost intentions. Will we wear it as a visible mark to distinguish ourselves from others, or as a reminder to ourselves of our human fragility? Similarly, will we tell everyone we know what our ‘fasting’ regimen in Lent is to be this year (alcohol, chocolate, Facebook, etc) because we want to display our devoutness, or will we just add or subtract a way of marking the season of Lent as a secret between us and God?

As Jesus knew, it is extremely easy to veer into hypocrisy in our thoughts, words and deeds, especially if we focus on public, external appearances. May this season of Lent be for all of us an opportunity to reignite our relationship with God in ways which are intensely authentic because they are known only to us and the Divine.

FINAL PRAYER: Ash Wednesday Collect, Jim Cotter

Compassionate and loving Presence,

forgiving us to seventy times seven,

spreading gratitude in our hearts,

releasing us from the guilt and power

of all that paralyses us and drags us down,

inspire us to give generously,

to fast thoughtfully,

and to pray thankfully,

keeping this Lent in the Spirit of Christ

who bore the cost of love,

enduring to the end.


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