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O God, who are wroth with them that sin against Thee, and sparest them that are penitent: we beseech Thee to hear the prayers of Thy people that call upon Thee; that we, which have most justly deserved the scourges of Thine anger, may by Thy great mercy be delivered from the same; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost: ever one God, world without end. Amen.

The prayer for the Friday after Ash Wednesday is the same as for Thursday after Ash Wednesday. Who knew. (I didn’t til today.) All the same, it’s a worthwhile prayer. It emphasizes both God’s implacable wrath on sin and His never-failing compassion for sinners. Although God may seem to change in His approach to us when we sin and when we repent, really we are the ones who change — we go from death to life when we repent and receive His forgiveness. He is always holy and He is always merciful.

The Epistle for the Friday after Ash Wednesday is Isaiah 58:1-9, yet another fine choice by the Church to remind her children of their purpose in observing Lent. For those who think that Lent is empty formalism or worse obviously don’t know their Bibles very well. Isaiah excoriates those who get hung up on fasting, sitting in sackcloth, bowing their heads so that everyone can see how repentent they are, etc. Instead, he lists acts of mercy that are the true fast God seeks — to show human compassion, to provide for those in need, not to turn away from those who cry out for help. With such sacrifices God is pleased. He also extols the beautiful results for those who are in Christ: their righteousness will break forth as the dawn. This recalls Jesus’ statement that the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of His Father — and also of the glorious sight we just beheld by faith on the Mount of Transfiguration, where “brighter than the sun He glows” — an unspoken but no less powerful promise that we will be like He is if we are faithful to the end.

The Gospel for the Friday after Ash Wednesday is likewise another trenchant, on-target portion of Scripture. It precedes the Gospel for Ash Wednesday in Matthew’s Gospel, and continues the theme of true inner obedience vs. mere external works. Jesus emphasizes loving your enemy (not just not being rude to him), with the end of “being children of your Father in heaven.” A worthy section to sit & ponder. This reading concludes with Jesus’ counsel on almsgiving, which is a traditional Lenten discipline. The best way is not to let the left hand know what the right hand is doing. (Similar to how I’m typing this, ha ha.)

More tomorrow on tomorrow’s prayer and appointed readings. May Jesus bless your Lenten devotions in His name. Amen.

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