The Gospel according to Matthew (Mt 6:1-6, 16-18)
Jesus said to his disciples: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”
Today’s Reflection: The liturgical useof ashes got its origin back in The Hebrew (Old) Testaments. We find it in the Books of Ester, Job, and Daniel (my favorite), and Jonah just to name a few. In Daniel 9:3 we read, “I turned to the Lord God, pleading in earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes”. It would surely be a awe-inspiring experience to put oneself in this most humbling position both physically, mentally as well as spiritually.
Tricia and I have always tried to, not only give up something that we enjoy, but to also find something positive that we could offer to not only to our fellow brothers and sisters, but to also keep us engaged in our own community. This gives us more of a positive twist to the Lent season. And if we also turn that inwards towards our families, we have a perfect opportunity to re-engage ourselves with the special ones we love.
One portion of today’s Gospel might seem out of place for Ash Wednesday. Today a great number of the faithful will be carrying out their daily responsibilities with a smudge of ash visible to all. On this particular day, the ashes protracted on our foreheads proclaim our communion with other Christians who, sinful like us, are seeking an interior conversion this Lenten season. I find it truly amazing that more people, in general, will attend church on this day more than any other day in the year including Easter and Christmas.
Action of the Day: Let us ask our Heavenly Fatherto guide us in the right direction as we begin our Lenten Journey. Give each of us the courage to allow ourselves to be transformed by His love today and as we go forward. Help each of us to use our Lenten sacrifices to dig deep into our spiritual center and to carve out a space for God alone.
Have a Blessed Lenten Season!