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Reading 1, Joel 2:12-18
Responsorial Psalm, Psalms 51:3-4, 5-6ab, 12-13, 14 and 17
Gospel Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
The Lord asks us to return to Him
with fasting and weeping and
mourning. We are asked to rend
our hearts, not our garments, and
to return to the Lord. Our God is
gracious and merciful, slow to an-
ger, rich in kindness and relenting
in punishment. The Psalm guides
us to ask the Lord for his mercy
and ask him to thoroughly wash away and cleanse us of our guilt. Con-
tinuing to acknowledge our sins, we must ask God for his mercy that he
not cast us out from his presence, nor take his Holy Spirit from us but, in-
stead, create for us a clean heart, renewing a steadfast spirit
within us. Lastly, the Gospel instructs us that the Lord warns of
the danger of self-seeking glory i.e., preoccupation with looking
good and seeking praise from others. Almsgiving, prayer and
fasting are to be a secret between us and our Father who, when
he sees what is hidden, will repay us.
Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the holy season of
Lent. Today’s readings ask us to acknowledge our sins, bringing
us face to face with guilt. We are not asked to bear all of the
world’s guilt; but we are asked to feel guilty about our individual
sins. These are the knowing and deliberate violations of God’s
law. Once we have acknowledged guilt, Jesus tasks us with three
things: prayer, fasting and almsgiving.