One of the interesting features of Year A in the Revised Common Lectionary, is that Ash Wednesday’s traditional year-after-year Gospel lesson comes after five Sundays in Epiphanytide of Gospel lessons from The Sermon on the Mount.
Unlike years B and C, we get to see the Ash Wednesday Gospel after hearing from the Great Sermon for over a month. We’ve been well-steeped in the Sermon this year, and it provides an interesting vantage point.
The entirety of the Sermon is about authentic faithful living as the cornerstone of the Kingdom of God. Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 is no different.
Portions of the Sermon on the Mount are Jesus telling his audience, and us, to “do something,” and other times he tells us “not to do as others do.” In the Ash Wednesday Gospel, Jesus is contrasting an optimal faith (maybe a “true” faith) with the faith of the Pharisees.
Jesus portrays these poor Pharisaical slobs as going through all the motions of religious living, but falling short in grafting faithfulness in their hearts.
For Jesus, faith is meant to be a matter of the heart.
Historically, Lent was a period of time spend catechizing the soon-to-be-batptized. Functionally, today, it’s a season where we a meant to ‘up our game.’
Some of us, and some of our fellow church-goers will take on a spiritual discipline or two. Some will give up chocolate. Some will give up soda. Some will take on something they don’t usually do.
Whatever we do though, we have to make sure that it’s a matter of the heart. Not a weight-loss technique, not a way to beat ourselves up, and not something to impress the priest.
Whatever we do with our Lent, let us make it about bringing our heart more in-line with the Kingdom of God. As we saw early on in the Sermon on the Mount, let us try on ‘purity of heart,’ so that we ‘may see God.’ Let us try on poverty of spirit, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, and peacemaking. Let us pray, let us fast, let us make our needed repenting.
And let us analyze our spiritual echo-cardiograms. So that our hearts are set squarely in the Kingdom for the Day of Resurrection.