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Contemplating today's Gospel

Today's Gospel + homily (in 300 words)

Ash Wednesday

1st Reading (Joel 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.
Responsorial Psalm: 50
R/. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness; in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense. Thoroughly wash me from my guilt and of my sin cleanse me.

For I acknowledge my offense, and my sin is before me always: «Against you only have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight».

A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me. Cast me not out from your presence, and your Holy Spirit take not from me.

Give me back the joy of your salvation, and a willing spirit sustain in me. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
2nd Reading (2Cor 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.
Versicle before the Gospel (Ps 94:8): If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Gospel text (Mt 6,1-6.16-18): Jesus said to his disciples, «Be careful not to make a show of your righteousness before people. If you do so, you do not gain anything from your Father in heaven. When you give something to the poor, do not have it trumpeted before you, as do those who want to be seen in the synagogues and in the streets in order to be praised by the people. I assure you, they have been already paid in full. If you give something to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your gift remains really secret. Your Father who sees what is kept secret, will reward you.

»When you pray, do not be like those who want to be seen. They love to stand and pray in the synagogues or on street corners to be seen by everyone. I assure you, they have already been paid in full. When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father who is with you in secret; and your Father who sees what is kept secret will reward you. When you fast, do not put on a miserable face as do the hypocrites. They put on a gloomy face, so people can see they are fasting. I tell you this: they have paid in full already. When you fast, wash your face and make yourself look cheerful, because you are not fasting for appearances or for people, but for your Father who sees beyond appearances. And your Father, who sees what is kept secret will reward you».

«Be careful not to make a show of your righteousness before people»

Pbro. D. Luis A. GALA Rodríguez (Campeche, Mexico)

Today we start our itinerary towards Easter, and the Gospel reminds us of the fundamental Christian duties, not only as a preparation for the liturgical time, but also as a preparation for the Eternal Easter: «Be careful not to make a show of your righteousness before people. If you do so, you do not gain anything from your Father in heaven» (Mt 6:1). The righteousness Jesus speaks about is made up of our living according to the evangelic convictions, without forgetting that «unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven» (Mt 5:20).

Righteousness leads us to love, expressed through our charity and mercy: «If you give something (…), do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing» (Mt 6:2). It does not mean that good deeds should be concealed, but we ought not to think of human praise when doing them, nor should we be looking forward to other superior and heavenly benefits. In other words, when I give alms I should not be thinking I am doing anything especial that deserves a reward from God and applause from men.

Benedict XVI already claimed that helping the needy is a duty of justice, even before an act of charity: «Charity goes beyond justice (…); but it never lacks justice, which prompts us to give the other what is “his”, what is due to him by reason of his being or his acting». We should never forget that we are not the absolute owners of the goods we possess, but only their administrators. Jesus Christ has shown us that the true charity is not that which is limited to “giving” alms, but that which also “offers” our bodies as a living sacrifice to God (cf. Rom 12:1); this would be the true act of Christian righteousness and charity, and «your Father, who sees what is kept secret, will reward you» (Mt 6:4).

«Be careful not to make a show of your righteousness before people»

Fr. Manel VALLS i Serra (Barcelona, Spain)

Today is the first day of Lent: «Now is the day of salvation!» (2Cor 6:2). The application of ashes reminds us of two ideals; the ancient one: «Remember, man, that you are dust, and to dust you will return»; and the one which the Council's renewed liturgy has introduced: «Repent, and believe in the Gospel». Both thoughts are an invitation to look at our own life in a different way —normally, so superficial. Pope Saint Clement I reminds us that «our Lord wants all whom He loves to become converts».

In the Gospel, Jesus is asking us to give to the needy, to fast and to pray far from any hypocrisy: «Do not announce it with trumpets» (Mt 6:2). Hypocrites, strongly condemned by Jesus Christ, are characterized by their heart's falsehood. However, today, Jesus warns us not only against subjective hypocrisy but also against the objective one: that is, to fulfill, even in good faith, all that God's Law and the Scriptures command, but doing it only for those who may be watching, without the corresponding intimate conversion.

It is then, when alms —reduced to “a mere tip”— are no longer a fraternal act but they are limited to a soothing gesture that does not modify the way we look at our brother nor let us experience the charity of paying to him the attention he deserves. Fasting, on the other hand, remains as the formal compliance of an obligation, that does no longer reminds us of the need to restrain our compulsive consumerism nor of the necessity to be cured of our “spiritual bulimia”. Finally, praying —reduced to a sterile monologue— is no more the authentic Spiritual overture, the intimate dialogue with the Father, the attentive listening to the Gospel of the Son.

The religion of the hypocrites is sad, legalist and moralist, of a big narrow-mindedness of spirit. Alternatively, our Christian Lent is every year's Church's invitation to a more intimate deepening, to a demanding conversion, to a humble penance, so that, while producing the pertinent fruits our Lord expects from us, we may fully live Easter’s joy and spiritual pleasure.

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