Homily (Reflection) for Ash Wednesday, A,B,C (26th February, 2020) on the Gospel and the Celebration
Joel 2:12-18;
Ps 50:3-6.12-14.17 (R. v.3);
2Cor 5:20–6:2;
Matt 6:1-6.16-18.
Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, a season of repentance, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. The ashes symbolize the nothingness of man. As the priest places the ash on those who come forward, he says: “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel” or “Remember, man, you are dust and to dust you will return”[1]. Ashes also symbolize grief for sin. And it can be administered to all who come forward and is made from the palm branches blessed the previous year's Palm Sunday. Ashes may also be delivered by a priest or any other person to those who are sick or shut-in[2].
Ash Wednesday falls between 4th February and 10th March and is observed by many Western Christians, including Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Roman Catholics. We are called to imitate Christ who spent 40 days in the wilderness fasting[3], cf. Matt 4:1-2; Lk 4:2; Mk 1:12-13. Ash Wednesday is a day of fasting for those from 18 – 59 years and abstinence for those from 14 years upwards.
Topic: Pray, Fast, and Give Alms.
In today’s gospel Jesus calls us to true almsgiving, prayer, and fasting that can be rewarded in heaven. It is important to note that they are interrelated. We are called to watch and pray, cf. Mk 14:38; Matt 26:41. As one communicates with God through prayer, God helps him or her see others as his or her brothers and sisters and also to know their needs. Again God helps us go beyond knowing their needs to assisting them, cf. Jas 2:15-16. Helping one’s brothers and sisters is almsgiving. And one cannot help unless he or she deprives him/herself something, fasting, cf. 2Cor 8:15. However, fasting does not simply mean a reduction in our food, but the elimination of our evil habits[4]”. And this is necessary for everybody regardless of the ages because without holiness “no one will see the Lord”, cf. Heb 12:14.
Although each and every one of us must have been praying, fasting and giving alms, we can do better. In the words of Pope Saint Leo the Great,
Whatever steps forward we make, there is not one of us who is not always bound to do better. All of us must strive hard and do so on Easter day no one should remain bound by the vices of his former nature[5].
The success of Lent hangs on these.
As we begin the season of Lent, let us communicate with God often through prayer. We must also bear in mind that all of us are brothers and sisters and that whatever one has is for all, cf. Eph 4:6; Mal 2:10; 1Cor 10:24; 12:7. The good or the evil you do to your brother or sister is done directly to God, cf. Matt 25:40,45. And we do not need trumpets for prayers, fasting, or almsgiving lest we miss the reward. God sees everything and will certainly reward all, cf. Job 28:24; 34:21; Ps 33:13; Matt 6:4, 6, 18.
Bible Reading: Jas 2:14-26; 2Cor 8:1-15.
Thought for today: This is a holy season.
Let us pray: Lord, help us to make the best out of this Lent – Amen.
You are free to share this reflection with others if you consider it worthy.

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[1] The Sunday missal: A new edition (1995). London: HarperCollinsReligious, p. 167.
[4] Pope Saint Leo the Great. Sermon 6 on Lent, 1-2. In The divine office: The liturgy of the hours according to the roman rite, II (1997). p.14.
[5] Pope Saint Leo the Great. Sermon 6 on Lent, 1-2, p.14.

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