Tuesday, February 28, 2017



March 1, 2017 - ASH WEDNESDAY 
[Day of Fast (ages 18- 59) and Abstinence (ages 14 and up)]

Jl 2:12- 18 / 2 Cor 5: 20- 6: 2 / Mt 6: 1- 6, 16- 18

GOSPEL READING:     Mt 6:1 - 6, 16- 18
     Jesus said to his disciples, "Be careful not to make a show of your righteousness before people. If you do so, you do not gain anything from your Father in heaven. When you give something to the poor, do not have it trumpeted before you, as do those who want to be seen in the synagogues and in the streets in order to be praised by the people. I assure you, they have been already paid in full.

     "If you give something to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your gift remains really secret. Your Father who sees what is kept secret will reward you.

     "When you pray, do not be like those who want to be seen. They love to stand and pray in the synagogues or on street corners to be seen by everyone. I assure you, they have already been paid in full. When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father who is with you in secret; and your Father who sees what is kept secret will reward you...

     "When you fast, do not put on a miserable face as do the hypocrites. They put on a gloomy face, so people can see they are fasting. I tell you this: they have been paid in full already. When you fast, wash your face and make yourself look cheerful, because you are not fasting for appearances or for people, but for your Father who sees beyond appearances. And your Father, who sees what is kept secret, will reward you."

     Both Christianity and Islam recognize our need to acknowledge our sinfulness and the need for repentance. They both have special seasons for penitential fasting: for Islam during the holy month of Ramadan and for Christians during the season of Lent.

     The Lenten season is a healthy reminder for us that we are sinners: as John wrote, "If we say, 'We have no sin,' we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." (1 Jn 1: 8) Lent is a time for honest reflection and trusting repentance before the compassionate and forgiving God.

     Ashes are distributed today. The use of ashes as a sign of repentance is very ancient. There are many Biblical accounts of kings and noblemen, even of whole cities, sitting in ashes and wearing sackcloth, to show they were doing penance. Ashes symbolized a renunciation of evil and a renewal of life, symbolizing what is lowly and humble in contrast to worldly grandeur and power.
     It is therefore fitting that at the beginning of Lent the most visible symbol is that of ashes on our foreheads to signify the interior spirit of humble penance and repentance of our Lenten observance.

     In the blessing of the ashes the Church prays that the Lord may "pour out the grace of your blessing on your servants who are marked with these ashes, that, as they follow the Lenten observances, they may be worthy to come with minds made pure to celebrate the Paschal Mystery of your Son."

     On the Friday after Ash Wednesday the first reading from Isaiah reminds us that lying in sackcloth and ashes does not make our fasting acceptable: "See the fast that pleases me: breaking the fetters of injustice and unfastening the thongs of the yoke; setting the oppressed free and breaking every yoke. Fast by sharing your food with the hungry, bring to your house the homeless; clothe the man you see naked and do not turn away from your own kin." (Is 58: 6- 7)

     Today's liturgy reminds us that there is much more to Lent than external signs. The Gospel reading warns us of the danger of giving alms or praying or fasting "to be seen by others." The Gospel reading warns us of the danger of acting like hypocrites and invites us to celebrate Lent with honest and contrite hearts.



Finally, we pray for one another, for those who have asked our prayers and for those who need our prayers the most. 

Have a good day!

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