Ash Wednesday

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Ash Wednesday


First Reading

Joel 2,12-18

'But now -- declares Yahweh- come back to me with all your heart, fasting, weeping, mourning.' Tear your hearts and not your clothes, and come back to Yahweh your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, rich in faithful love, and he relents about inflicting disaster. Who knows if he will not come back, relent and leave a blessing behind him, a cereal offering and a libation to be presented to Yahweh your God? Blow the ram's-horn in Zion! Order a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly, call the people together, summon the community, assemble the elders, gather the children, even infants at the breast! Call the bridegroom from his bedroom and the bride from her bower! Let the priests, the ministers of Yahweh, stand weeping between portico and altar, saying, 'Spare your people, Yahweh! Do not expose your heritage to the contempt, to the sarcasm of the nations! Why give the peoples cause to say, "Where is their God?" ' Then, becoming jealous over his country, Yahweh took pity on his people.

Psalmody

Salmo non trovato : /home/segidio/www/2018.santegidio.org/en/preghiera/salmi/113b.htm

Second Reading

2 Corinthians 5,20-6,2

So we are ambassadors for Christ; it is as though God were urging you through us, and in the name of Christ we appeal to you to be reconciled to God. For our sake he made the sinless one a victim for sin, so that in him we might become the uprightness of God. As his fellow-workers, we urge you not to let your acceptance of his grace come to nothing. As he said, 'At the time of my favour I have answered you; on the day of salvation I have helped you'; well, now is the real time of favour, now the day of salvation is here.

Reading of the Gospel

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Whoever lives and believes in me
will never die.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Matthew 6,1-6.16-18

'Be careful not to parade your uprightness in public to attract attention; otherwise 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 the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win human admiration. In truth I tell you, they have had their reward. But when you give alms, your left hand must not know what your right 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 at the street corners for people to see them. In truth I tell you, they have had their reward. But when you pray, go to your private room, shut yourself in, and so 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 are fasting, do not put on a gloomy look as the hypocrites do: they go about looking unsightly to let people know they are fasting. In truth I tell you, they have had their reward. But when you fast, put scent on your head and wash your face, so that no one will know 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.

 

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

If you believe, you will see the glory of God,
thus says the Lord.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Homily

Today Lent begins, and the liturgy recounts God's heart-felt invitation: "return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning" (2:12). In his concern for the insensibility of the people of Israel, the prophet Joel adds, "rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing" (Jl 2:13). Lent is the time to return to God and rediscover the meaning of life. The liturgy comes to us with the ancient sign of ashes. As a small handful of ashes are placed on our heads, the priest says, "Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return."
This is the truth of our lives: we truly are dust, weak and fragile. It is easy for us to lift ourselves up. And we forget that we really are not much. Those who lift themselves up and feel strong soon discover that they are weak. The ashes on our heads remind us of our weakness. But not to increase our fear or sadness. On the contrary, to tell us that the weakness that we are is loved by God and chosen by God to carry out his plan of love and peace for the entire world.
We Christians are called to be sentinels of peace in the places where we live and work. We are asked to be vigilant so that people's consciences do not give in to the temptation of selfishness, lies, violence, and conflict. Prayer and fasting make us alert and vigilant sentinels, keeping the slumber of resignation from making conflict seem inevitable and the slumber of acquiescence to evil that continues to oppress the world from conquering. We must keep watch in order to defeat the roots of the slumber of lazy realism that makes everyone turn in on themselves and their own concerns. In the Gospel we just heard, Jesus himself urges his disciples to pray and fast in order to strip themselves of all pride and arrogance and to prepare to receive the gifts of God. Our strength is not enough to drive away evil. We need to invoke the help of the Lord. As Bonhoeffer loved to say, God not only makes us good, God makes us strong, so that love may defeat hatred and peace conquer war.