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Ash Wednesday - ‘Blow the trumpet in Zion!’

Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Readings: Joel 2: 12-18; Psalm 50(51); 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2; Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-18

What are we meant to think about trumpets today? The prophet Joel tells us, ‘Blow the trumpet in Zion!’ (Joel 2: 15) and yet, in the Gospel, Jesus says, ‘Do not sound a trumpet before you’ (Mt 6: 2).
Well, of course, Jesus and Joel are talking about rather different things. In Jesus’ example, the hypocrites have trumpets sounded in order to draw attention to their own largesse. This self-aggrandisement shows they have not understood the point of what they are doing: even when doing something to help others, it’s still really all about them.For the prophet Joel, however, the trumpet serves a very different function: in this context it’s not about people drawing others’ attention to themselves, but rather it serves as a signal to direct the whole people’s attention to the Lord. This is the purpose, too, of the fasting and the solemn assembly for which Joel also calls: they all remind us, as St Paul does in today’s second reading, that ‘now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation’ (2 Cor 6: 2).
Lent is a time for us to refocus our lives on Christ, to make him the centre of attention. We do this by various penitential practices, traditionally the prayer, fasting and almsgiving mentioned by Jesus himself in today’s Gospel, which remind us of what is (and is not) really important. And yet we can still miss this message: we can make our doing of these things about ourselves and not about Christ. As we receive the ashes today, the priest says, ‘Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return’: in the end there really isn’t much to blow our own trumpet about. Instead, may our penance during these forty days help us orient our lives on Christ, so that we can sound with joy the trumpet of his Easter victory.

Gregory Pearson OP


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