THE AFRICAN CHURCH & CONTEMPORARY AFRICAN REALITY with Rev Dr Laurenti Magesa A 3-day course for priests, religious and interested lay people to deepen understanding of being Church in Africa in the...
Day of Fast and Abstinence
Genesis 2: 18 – 24
Remember that you are dust and unto dust you shall return. It is an ancient symbol. The palms from last Palm Sunday are burned and given back to us on this Ash Wednesday. We are reminded that we came from this earth and will one day return to it.But that is only part of the story. If all we had to recall was our earthly origins, we would have nothing to look forward to except a return to those beginnings. We need to look more closely at the story from which we take this image.In this second creation account of Genesis, God creates a world and finds something lacking. So God takes some clay or dust from the earth. God the potter moulds that clay and breathes his own spirit, his own life into that clay.Not only are we clay, we are spirit, we are breath, we are life. We are not just any kind of life. We are the very breath, the very spirit, the very life of God!So on this Ash Wednesday we do not only say we are dust. We also proclaim that we are dust that has been transformed. We are dust that contains the very breath, the very Spirit of God.Its not that we fast, pray, and give alms this Lent because we will one day die and be judged. It is not as if we want to make things right so we don’t get punished.We observe these days of Lent to remind ourselves that we are something much more than a few grains of dust. We are the living presence of God. We are moved by his breath, his Spirit. We want to live as if we truly believed that.
THURSDAY AFTER ASH WEDNESDAY
Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes
Deut. 30: 15 – 20
On Ash Wednesday we were reminded that we are more than simply ash and dust. We are spirit. Today we are reminded that we need to make a choice. In today’s first reading Moses tells the Israelites: “I set before you life and death, choose life!Lent is not only about who we are. Lent is about the choices we make. We are dust into which God has breathed his own life, his own spirit. That spirit is a spirit of life. Therefore in the many choices we make, we need to choose life.Would we ever choose death? Yes. When we fail to be merciful and to forgive ourselves or others, we choose to carry around in our hearts the worst side of our being. That is a choice of death. When we allow anger, hatred, revenge to dictate our actions we have chosen death.When we think only of ourselves we shut out a more life giving part of ourself. We allow that to rule us. That is a choice of death. When we refuse to pray, refuse to join others in prayer and worship we cut off a spiritual lifeline. That is a choice of death.What choices for death are you now making? You are invited during the Lenten season to reverse those choices. The church invites you to choose life.
FRIDAY AFTER ASH WEDNESDAY
Day of fast and Abstinence
Isaiah 58: 1 – 9
Today’s scripture calls us to liberation, to freedom. It calls us not only to be liberated but to become liberators. Somewhere within most of us there is an urge, a call to become a liberator. We may have suppressed that urge or ignored it but it is still there.We may dream of liberating many from the slavery of poverty or illiteracy. Most of us know someone we wish we could just shake until we shake out of that person all his/her fear, guilt, anger, whatever it is that enslaves the person.As we find ourselves less and less able to fulfil any of those urges, we forget about that desire, that urge within us to be a liberator.Isaiah tells us today that the Lenten fast the Lord asks is the releasing of those held bound. They may be bound by ignorance, by greed, by fear, by anger or hatred, or simply by some unknown unrecognised emotion.Before we can heed the call of Isaiah we need to realize that the one we must release first is ourself. We need to release ourselves from the slavery of guilt, of failure, of apathy, of self doubt.We may never fulfil our dreams to liberate others. But if we can free ourselves from our own self oppression, others may see what we have done and be inspired to imitate us!
SATURDAY AFTER ASH WEDNESDAY
Luke 5: 27 – 32
In Jesus’ day the tax collector was one of the most despised persons in the community. Many were rich because they charged excessive taxes and pocketed the surplus money. Even those who were not rich were hated. They were agents of a foreign government. If they were Israelites they were considered traitors.Still Jesus did not exclude this hated group of persons. The gospels records that Jesus ate at the house of at least three of these tax collectors. One of them even became one of Jesus’ twelve apostles and wrote one of the gospels.No matter what our background Jesus invited to an experience of Mercy. If we can forgive ourselves and accept ourselves Jesus has already done so.