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FEB. 17. ASH WEDNESDAY. LENT. MT. 6. 1-6, 16-18.

Updated: Aug 24

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Be careful not to parade your good deeds before men 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 the 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 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; 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 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.’


As Lent begins, as my sixty years in the desert (21 May 1961 to 21 May 2021) draws to a conclusion, the reading focuses very much on the motivation and purpose of our earthly pilgrimage, in that it raises the question of “why” we do our good works, or “why” we strive to imitate Christ.


And it is appropriate during Lent we ponder this question! Do we do it in order to “parade our good works before men”, or is it so that they can be “trumpeted before us”, or do we do it as a “secret”; - wanting to keep our good works a secret between ourselves and the Father?


When we pray; - what is our motivation. Is it so that “people will see us”, or do we desire to genuinely pray “in secret” to the Father? When we fast, what is our motivation, is it “so men know we are fasting” or, again, is it done “in secret; - for the Father alone.


The message of the reading is clear. All our good works, all our striving for Holiness, the very purpose of our life must be motivated by Faith in God, and Love of God. If we do it for any other reason then “we have already received our reward”, and our life, and our efforts, have no meaning.


If, however, the focus of our lives is on Eternal Live, and the attainment of a loving union with God, even while on earth, then we are told; - Your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you”; - not only in Eternal Life, but now, during our earthly pilgrimage.


The Christian vocation, the Christian “invitation” is based on Faith and a belief in a loving God who dwells in Eternity; - and who wants us to dwell with him there; - but before this can happen our hearts must first be purified of all earthly “desires” or “motivations” that indicate a “love” for the things of this world.


Lent provides us an opportunity to continue to carry out this purification of the heart!


Gospel Acclamation cf.Ps94:8


Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ, king of endless glory!

If today you hear his voice,

harden not your hearts.

Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ, king of endless glory!


First reading Joel 2:12-18 · Let your hearts be broken, not your garments torn


‘Now, now – it is the Lord who speaks –

come back to me with all your heart,

fasting, weeping, mourning.’

Let your hearts be broken, not your garments torn,

turn to the Lord your God again,

for he is all tenderness and compassion,

slow to anger, rich in graciousness,

and ready to relent.

Who knows if he will not turn again, will not relent,

will not leave a blessing as he passes,

oblation and libation

for the Lord your God?


Sound the trumpet in Zion!

Order a fast,

proclaim a solemn assembly,

call the people together,

summon the community,

assemble the elders,

gather the children,

even the infants at the breast.

Let the bridegroom leave his bedroom

and the bride her alcove.

Between vestibule and altar let the priests,

the ministers of the Lord, lament.

Let them say,

‘Spare your people, Lord!

Do not make your heritage a thing of shame,

a byword for the nations.

Why should it be said among the nations,

“Where is their God?”’


Then the Lord, jealous on behalf of his land,

took pity on his people.







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