Ash Wednesday - Repent and believe the Gospel
Reading: Matthew 6:1-6. 16-18
Jesus said to His disciples: ‘Be careful not to parade your good deeds before me to attract their notice; by doing this you will lose all reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give alms, do not have it trumpeted before you; this is what hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win men’s admiration. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you give alms, your left hand must not know what your right hand is doing; your almsgiving must be secret, and your father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.
‘And when you pray, do not imitate the hypocrites; they love to say their prayers standing up in the synagogues and the street corners for people to see them. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you pray go to your private room and, when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in that secret place and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.
When you fast do not put on a gloomy look as the hypocrites do; they pull long faces to let men know they are fasting. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that no one will know that you are fasting except your Father who sees all that is done in secret; and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.’ Reflection
On this first day of Lent Jesus encourages us to enter into this most holy season in a spirit of prayer, humility and rejoicing. It is a time to draw closer to God and all of God’s people through acts of mercy, humility and service. We are asked to be deeply aware of the needs of others and to respond in genuine love. Authentic, self-giving devoid of all self-glorification and hypocrisy are essential if our efforts are to bear fruit for the kingdom of God. We are invited to deeper our relationship with our creator through our times of prayer where God speaks to us in the deepest recesses of our souls. Like Jesus, we are invited to enter into the inner room of our heart so that we may hear God’s calls to us at this time and rest in his love.
When we fast, we are asked to rejoice. Our fast is an invitation to draw closer to God; we must not be gloomy or sad. Our joyful witness born of our deepening relationship with our heavenly Father will invite others to want to know more about Jesus and his central place in our lives.
Heavenly Father, I thank you for the gift of this holy season of Lent. Open my heart to your graces at this time. Cleanse me of all hypocrisy. May I be generous to those in need and hungry for your most holy word in prayer. Fill me with a spirit of rejoicing that may draw others to you. Amen.