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Commentary

Wednesday, 2/17/2021, Ash Wednesday

An Invitation to Repent

First Reading Commentary: Joel 2:12-18

The message in Joel’s prophecy is to prepare for the coming of the LORD. If you read the first eleven verses of this prophecy, it becomes clear that Joel is talking about the second coming of Jesus on the Last Day as it is described in the book of Revelation.

Now you may ask, “What does this have to do with Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent?” During Lent, we prepare ourselves for the Passion and Resurrection of Christ. We focus on the fact that God loves us so much that He sent His Only Son for our salvation. Christ took our sins and nailed them to the cross and then defeated death with His Resurrection so that we too could be resurrected on the Last Day.

But in order for us to be resurrected, we must do our part which is to repent for our sins. We have to admit to our sins, let God know that we are sorry and do penance. This is what happens in the Sacrament of Confession. We confess, make a good Act of Contrition and do whatever penance that is assigned to us. Catholics should go to Confession on a regular basis throughout the year, but they should make a special effort during Lent because Lent is a time to repent.

This is what God is telling us through Joel today. God says, “Return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning.” God invites us to come to Him so that He can forgive us and bring us into His Kingdom. God does not have to invite us. God is by far, greater than anything that our minds can conceive. God, therefore, does not need us. But God created us and loves us and wants nothing more than for us to be with Him and therefore, God goes out of His way to have us choose to be with Him.

God also wants us to show our love for each other by bringing our neighbor with us. In Joel’s prophecy, God says, “Blow the trumpet in Zion…call an assembly; gather the people, notify the congregation.” God wants us to invite the whole world and let everyone know that He loves us all and sent His Son for all of us. Not just a select few, but anyone and everyone who is willing to be with Him.

The first thing that we must do in letting God know that we choose to be with Him and in preparing ourselves for His Son’s second coming is to put our faith in Him. This is what God is telling us when He says, “Make not your heritage a reproach, with the nations ruling over them!” In other words, “Do not put your faith in this world or in anything of this world. Put your faith in Me.” When our faith is in God, we do not have to question where He is. We know that He is right there with us and He is there all of the time.

An Appeal through Paul and the Apostles

Second Reading Commentary: 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2

Paul reflects on Isaiah 49:8 and says, “In an acceptable time I heard you, and on the day of salvation I helped you.” Did you know that there is more than one day of salvation? We are saved on the day that we receive the Sacrament of Baptism. We were saved when Christ took our sins to the cross. We are saved when we are granted absolution in Confession. We will achieve eternal salvation when we are raised with Christ on the last day.

Paul is making, reference to our being raised with Christ but his message is clear that in order, to receive eternal salvation, we must repent. Paul implores us on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God.

All, of the Apostles were carrying out the mission given to them by Christ of spreading the Good News of the Gospel to the world. They all knew the saving-grace associated with repentance and how important it is to receive that grace if one is to enter, into the Kingdom of Heaven. And so, Paul and all, of the Apostles beg us to be reconciled with God.

But what is interesting here and should catch everyone’s attention is that Paul and the Apostles make their plea on behalf of Christ. It is like Christ is saying through Paul and the Apostles, “I came for your sake, I gave my life on the cross for your salvation and I defeated death so that you may be raised with Me. Now won’t you please just admit to your sins and follow Me so that I may share eternal life with you?”

I do not know what else to say behind that because there really is nothing more that God can do for us.

Do Not Boast Your Good Deeds

Gospel Commentary: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

Today, we are reminded, by Joel and Paul of how important it is for us to repent. We also learn that God wants us to repent and pleads with us to repent so that we can be with Him in heaven. But in today’s Gospel, Jesus warns us not to brag about our good deeds.

Jesus said, “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them…When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you… When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them…When you fast, do not look gloomy…But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face…your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”

Jesus is telling us that if we are looking for recognition for our good deeds, then they are being done for our own personal pride and gratification. They are not being done for the glory of God and therefore serve no purpose to God and grant us no recognition in the Kingdom because we have already received our recognition here on earth.

Besides, what does God really want from us? God wants us to give ourselves to Him just as He has given Himself to us. We do not have to make a big deal of letting other people know that we have given ourselves to God. It will become evident to everyone in the way that we live our lives and, in the way, that we show our love for each other. Everything that we do will be done as God would have us do it. As a result, our faith in God will radiate from us and people around us will want to be like us.

If we give alms from the heart because we want to help others, we obey the second Greatest Commandment. If we pray from the heart because of our faith and love of God, we obey the first Greatest Commandment. If we obey these Commandments without looking for or even wanting any recognition here on earth, God will bestow on us the greatest reward of all—eternal life in heaven.

Reading 1          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          51:3-6, 12-14, 17

R. (see 3a) 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.
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.

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.”
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.

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.
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.

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.
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.

Reading 2          2 Corinthians 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.

Gospel          Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

Jesus said to his disciples: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.
When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others.
Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them.
Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.
They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting.
Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden.
And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”

Wear the mask!
Wash your hands!
Maintain social distancing!
Pray for our leadership!

Get the vaccine!

Ash Wednesday

Remember that you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.

Joel tells us to return to God with our whole heart, with fasting, weeping and mourning. In other words; repent from the heart.

On behalf of Christ, Paul implores us to admit to our sins and ask God for forgiveness.

Verse Before the Gospel

If today your hear his voice,
harden not your hearts.

Mother Saint Teresa tells us that when we act with love, we won't be hypocrites.

Jesus wants us to pray, fast and give alms but He warns us against being hypocrites.

Antiphon 1

Let us change our garments to sackcloth and ashes,
let us fast and weep
before the Lord,
that our God,
rich in mercy,
might forgive us our sins.

We should not obey the commandments so that we might gain recognition here on earth from God or from mankind. Anything that we enjoy in this life is given to us by God as an addition to the gift of life itself. It is not a reward and it is not intended to be a reward and we should not think of it as a reward. Anything that we have in this life and anything that comes to us in our future life here on earth is a gift. What comes to us in heaven is the reward! Don’t get it twisted by living for what is in this life because this life is temporary and anything of this life can be nothing more than temporary. Heaven is forever!

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