Wednesday, February 22, 2012
"Proclaim a solemn assembly.
Call the people together
Summon the community."
So commands the Lord in the passage from the prophet Joel that we read in today's liturgy (it overlaps with the passage that Jews use on Yom Kippur, their Day of Atonement.) All around the world today the community of believers gathers in solemn assembly to put ashes on ourselves. Not just as individuals, but as a worldwide congregation, we proclaim that we are sinners, that we have disfigured God's world, and that we intend to change.
It was customary in the time of the prophet for repentent sinners, not just to throw ashes on themselves, but to tear their clothes. In today's passage the Lord declares, "Come back to me with all your heart....Tear your hearts and not your clothes." God is looking for an interior conversion, a change of hearts and minds, a change of lives.
By putting ashes on ourselves we put ourselves as a solemn assembly at God's disposal. We bring each other to God and make our common prayer, "Change our hearts this time." Only God can melt the hard heart of the world.