4 March, Friday — Sacrifice and Service

Friday after Ash Wednesday

Isa 58:1-9
Mt 9:14-15

I am here.”

Today is the first Friday of the six Fridays of Lent. Day of fasting. Day of sacrifice. In six weeks, it will be Good Friday. 

On Friday, 15 April, as you look back, what will this Lent look like? Will this be a/the Lent that transforms you? One that you kept holy through sacrifice of what you wanted to do because of your commitment of sacrifice and service during this time? Will the ashes placed on your forehead just two days ago be visible in your actions? 

I am praying that we all make it a good Lent. I am thinking back to Lent 2020 — Ash Wednesday was on 17 February and the coronavirus was something that was mainly effecting northern Italy; it wasn’t on the radar of most of us. And suddenly, the virus was everywhere – in everyone’s backyard if not already in their house. Schools and businesses were being shut down by governments. I remember thinking, “I can’t believe we are really shutting down everything for two weeks to ensure we flatten the curve” (remember when the experts said that was the key?) Suddenly, there was a possibility that Easter Mass might be cancelled. Many of us internally rebelled. It didn’t make sense – how can Easter Mass be cancelled?! Of course Easter Mass wasn’t cancelled, we just weren’t able to celebrate together. 

And because of this world lockdown, many of us slowed down like never before and began to breathe God in a new way. It seemed that God was our only hope against this changing invisible virus that infiltrated without warning, even against the best of precautions and complying with all that the medical experts and scientists told us to do. Our minds and bodies were confused. Things were not making any sense. Yet there was a quietness that was intrinsically soothing. And if we paused, and prayed, and stopped, and searched within, we realized our body was yearning for Mass. Holy Week of 2020 brought many to our knees in a way like never before. We were (are) all searching for HOPE. Many finding God, some wondering if God cared at all. We heard God clearly speaking in new ways, did we not? 

In Isaiah today, we read that God speaks, “Here I am.” One of my favorite songs is “Here I am, Lord, is it I, Lord? I have heard you calling in the night….” Yet here in scripture it is GOD SAYING to me, and to you, “HERE I AM.” God wants to make sure you and I know that HE IS HERE, right next to us, here to help us. 

If we allow Him, God will help us stay true to the sacrifice and service we set into motion on Ash Wednesday; and if you didn’t set any intentions, it is not too late, do it now. It doesn’t have to be anything big or earthshattering – there is no such thing as a sacrifice or service too small. God doesn’t need what we accomplish through our sacrifice or service, God desires who we become because we choose to sacrifice and serve because we know Him, love Him and want to serve Him. Even 5 (more) minutes in total silence listening out for God builds our relationship. The more often you and I choose to pray, the more likely we are to hear Him say “Here I am”. The more you and I draw to Him, the more we will recognize His voice and His ways. The more we will see and hear Him throughout your days. 

Two days ago, we heard the words, “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. I know the ashes have been washed from your forehead. But if we truly believe that God is speaking to us, calling us, we will see the mark they left when we look in the mirror. He has surely marked us as His. All we need to do is follow His voice, “Here I am.” He’s not hiding. He sees your sacrifice and service.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Gina Ulicny)

Prayer: Father God, we ask for our help in staying true to You in the intentions of sacrifice and service we declared for Lent. We beg for You to nudge us and sustain us when we want to fall into our flesh when we don’t feel like giving to You. We know we need to constantly hear You say, “I AM HERE” so that we have the confidence to know our obedience pleases You.

Thanksgiving: Father in Heaven, thank you for this time of Lent, for this time to lean into scripture in a way that feeds our body and soul. We thank you for our faith and our church, for the Stations in this season. We thank you for this time of intentional sacrifice and service that helps us live above this world.

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