Ash Wednesday March 1, 2017

Reading 1 Jl 2:12-18

Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the LORD, your God.
For gracious and merciful is he,
slow to anger, rich in kindness,
and relenting in punishment.
Perhaps he will again relent
and leave behind him a blessing,
Offerings and libations
for the LORD, your God.

Blow the trumpet in Zion!
proclaim a fast,
call an assembly;
Gather the people,
notify the congregation;
Assemble the elders,
gather the children
and the infants at the breast;
Let the bridegroom quit his room
and the bride her chamber.
Between the porch and the altar
let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep,
And say, “Spare, O LORD, your people,
and make not your heritage a reproach,
with the nations ruling over them!
Why should they say among the peoples,
‘Where is their God?'”

Then the LORD was stirred to concern for his land
and took pity on his people.

Lent is a time to come back to God with your whole heart.  It may be difficult with tears shed and sadness, but it is the time to offer up yourself to the Lord.  Lent is meant for sacrifice and fixing the heart.  We can leave the sin behind, and it is time for renewal and turning to the Gospel.  He is gracious and does not punish.  We should notify all people and gather them so they can hear this news to deepen their relationship with God or start one that they may have been to fearful to begin.

Reading 2 2 Cor 5:20—6:2

Brothers and sisters:
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 sin who did not know sin,
so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.

Working together, then,
we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.
For he says:

In an acceptable time I heard you,
and on the day of salvation I helped you.

Behold, now is a very acceptable time;
behold, now is the day of salvation.

We are ambassadors of Christ.  What an honor, but what a responsibility.  An ambassador is a representative, and we represent Christ.  God uses us as tools to bring Himself into this world.  We must remember that as Christians, the world is looking at our lives.  When people meet us, they should meet Christ.  Our lives should make non-believers question why they do not believe in God.  I can think of many examples when I did not act as if I was representing God.  Just like a cop in a uniform, or a Catholic school girl in her uniform, or an army officer in his uniform, we are always in that Christian “uniform” to be the best we can be.  I remember when wearing my high school academy uniform, our dean always talked about how we had to still uphold school rules even if we were not at school.  People though that was stupid and controlling, but it was the way for my school to have representatives no matter where we travelled.  Likewise, we cannot just be Christians at church or when it is easy, but we are ambassadors of Christ on the beach, at school, at church, in NYC, in Florida…..the time of salvation is now.

Gospel 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.”

How many of us want credit for the good we do?  We want to be the hero- the one that saves the day- and we want everyone to know.  The thing is that we should not act with that intention.  When we help others, it should be genuine and to actually help them and to serve the Lord.  Nothing should be for praise.  God will reward us and already knows when we are doing good deeds without us having to announce it.  It is very prideful to volunteer just for recognition and for other people to say you’re a good person because then it was really done for the self.  We should do good because it is what Jesus wants.

When the passage says to pray to God in secret and do not make it look like you are fasting, is not a cop out or excuse to hide your faith.  Some people may take this the wrong way and act as though this means that you should never bring your religion to the public scene and it should stay in a box in a corner of your room.  That is not true either.  Our relationship with God should always be something we are proud of, but it should not be on display for people to look at us like we are amazing, awesome people because that is God alone.

 

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