Brothers and Sisters:
Every year on Ash Wednesday, the first day f the Lenten Season, our attention is drawn to three of the essential disciplines of the Christian life, alms giving, prayer and fasting. These were disciplines practised by the scribes and Pharisees in the time of Jesus and he was careful to point out to them that they were not to be done for outward show but done primarily for God’s approval. Jesus warned, do not parade your acts of righteousness before others to gain their admiration, for that will be of no lasting benefit. The strictest disciplines practiced without love is worth nothing, in fact life without love is nothing.
Almsgiving is a practice designed to open the door of our hearts to others. We know only too well what Paul had to say about this, “if I give away all my possessions…but do not have love I gain nothing.” This is a strong message to our involvement in outreach programmes. We are not called upon to help the less fortunate and to insist that they show some form of appreciation for the benefits they receive, we are called upon to love them, to show them the love that God has shown to us.
Fasting is a practice designed to open the eyes of our heart to who we are. We are sometimes inclined to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. Fasting is a humbling exercise. By denying ourselves of some of the gratification that we yearn for, we gain a fuller understanding of our human frailty, and of the amazing love of God for us in spite of who we are. Such love creates a desire for our transformation into the image of Christ.
Prayer opens the door to the heart of God, the Christians true home. It is in the practice of prayer that we discover that the father’s heart is open to welcome us. We are led into a new intimacy with God, as our love responds to the love of God. Jesus taught us the language to use, “Our Father”, and invited us to recognize that God is our everlasting lover. Prayer is the way to keep falling in love over and over again. We catch another glimpse of this in Wesley’s hymn, “Jesu lover of my soul, let me to thy bosom fly.”
Let us therefore be encouraged to observe the disciplines of the Christian life this Lenten season, as it is not bitter medicine, it is all about love.
Have a blessed Lent.