We are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake, he made him to be failure who did not know failure, so that we might become the charitableness of God in him. Working together, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. St. Paul writes:
In an acceptable time I heard you, and on the day of salvation/Joshua/Jesus I helped you.
Now is a very acceptable time.
Now is the day of salvation/Joshua/Jesus.
So reads the second reading for Ash Wednesday. The key word in the passage is δίκαιος which the Septuagint or Greek translation of the Hebrew Torah usually translates for Tzaddic. Tzaddic means both justice/righteousness, and charity. The idea comes from the Exodus and the First Mitzvah, which includes the command to remember our enslavement in Oppression/ Egypt and our rescue. To remember our enslavement and our rescue means to get that lump in our throat when we see others suffer and do something.
Saint Paul tells us that Jesus/Salvation did not know failure, become failure, dying on the cross so that we might become charitable, the charitableness of God. We do not receive the grace of God in vain. Just as God worked to lead the Jews out of Egypt to the Promised Land, so Jesus died on the cross to rescue us. In exchange, we must work to rescue others, or our salvation is in vain. Now is the acceptable time to save others, from poverty, from despair, to the freedom of expression, the freedom to serve God as he desires, from want and from fear.
Because God rescued us, we remember the words of the Great American who said, “Seven score and nine years ago, a great American, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. One hundred and fifty years later, too many live on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred and fifty years later, too many still languish in the corners of American society, finding themselves exiles in their own land.
This great American talked about a check, a promissory note that all people are supposed to inherit. As then, our leaders still tell the poor there are not sufficient funds to help them out of their chains of poverty. Now is the time for tax cuts for the rich. The poor need to wait. As Christians, we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of America.
Our second reading for Ash Wednesday reminds us of the Fierce Urgency of Now. There is no time to engage in the luxury of gradualism. Now is a very acceptable time. Now is the day of salvation/Joshua/Jesus. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of injustice to the solid rock of Christian unity. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children. Now is the time to make America one nation under God, not two, one black, one white, one enslaved by poverty, and one enslaved by wealth.
Ash Wednesday is the day of repentance; Repentance from what? Repentance from allowing our politicians, our religious and economic leaders not to cash that check. Are we ready and up to the task?