Ash Wednesday
Daily Scripture Analysis

Daily Gospel

Ash Wednesday

 

Reading 1: (Jl 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.

Reading 2: (2 Cor 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: (Mt 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."


Written by: Fr. Anthony Tien M. Dinh, O.P.

I. THEME: God’s mercy and human sins

             

            The Lenten season reminds us of many things: the fragile of human life by the antiphon: “Remember you are dust and shall return to dust;” or our human weakness and sins: “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” However, God’s love is much greater than sins which we committed against Him; He is always ready to forgive all sins if we sincerely repent.

            Today readings show us many different aspects of the Lenten season. In the first reading, the prophet Joel reminded people to pay attention to two aspects: first, “rend your hearts and not your garments;” and secondly, the communal dimension of repentance. In the second reading, St. Paul emphasized the advantage of time for the reconciliation with God. In the Gospel, St. Matthew paid a special attention to the three main columns of Lent, which are: fasting, praying and giving alms.  

II. ANALYSIS:

1/ Reading I: “Rend your hearts and not your garments.”

1.1/ Return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning: To receive God’s forgiveness, people need to do two basic things.

            (1) Believe in God who is rich in mercy: People need to believe in this truth before they can repent. God shall forgive all sins that they committed. This truth was repeated many times in the Prophetic Books and is the hope of people during the exilic time.

            (2) Must repent with all their heart: The prophet Joel emphasized heart and mind dimensions: “Return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;and rend your hearts and not your garments.” God can see through their heart and mind, the ceremonies and outside acts aren’t enough to be forgiven by Him.

1.2/ The communal dimension of sins: Besides the individual dimension, sin also has a communal dimension. Sin causes damages not only for the individual, but also for one’s family and community. Moreover, God wants people to live and to help each other right from the beginning when He created people. Therefore, when people examine of their conscience, they must pay attention not only to the sins they intentionally committed, but also to the sins they unintentionally forgot, such as their duty to help others as described in the seven corporal and seven spiritual works of mercy.

            The prophet Joel paid a special attention to the communal dimension of repentance in the first reading: “Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly;gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber.” The prophet Jonah went further when he reported the Nineveh king’s decree that not only people but also animals must also fast to show their repentance (Joh 3:7-8).

            When people meet two above conditions, God will forgive people’s sins. He continues to care for and to protect them: “Then the LORD became jealous for his land, and had pity on his people.”

2/ Reading II: “Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

2.1/ Make reconciliation with God: There are two reasons why people need to be reconciled to God. First, all are sinners. Secondly, Christ has died to take away people’s sins and to justify them. St. Paul confirmed this truth: “We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

2.2/ This is an acceptable time: Human beings depend on time, spiritually and physically. People physically depend on time when they must sow and harvest on time in order to have a successful harvest. People spiritually depend on time when they must keep holy the Sabbath, the Weeks, the Holy Year and the Jubilee.

            Every year, when the Lent comes, the Mother Church begs and encourages her children to repent and to return to God, as St. Paul advised his faithful: “So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” Lent is a graceful season, the season which God bestows grace on sinners; the season which helps people to look back their past and position their life on the journey to their Father’s house. If they got lost, Lent is the season for them to return to the right way before it is too late.

3/ Gospel: Three main columns of Lent

            (1) Giving alms: Due to the communal dimension of sin, people must also give alms to compensate for their sins, such as: to help the poor, to visit the sick and prisoners, to advise sinners to return to God, etc.

            When doing these things, Jesus taught us: “When you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

            (2) Praying: can’t be lacking in a Christian daily life. Moreover, we must increase our time to pray in Lent because it is the season we commemorate Christ’s Passion and death. He went through all these is to redeem people. As said above, Lent is also the season to help us to look back at our past; we need much time to examine our conscience, to repent, and to ask God for His forgiveness.

            To correctly pray, Jesus taught us: “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

            (3) Fasting: isn’t simply about reducing food and drink, but we must pay attention to our intention of fasting. First, our fasting is to help everyone to have something to eat, not to save money or to go shopping later; therefore, whatever we don’t eat must be given to those who need them. Besides, there are still many things we need to fast; for examples, fasting our eyes so we shouldn’t see improper things; fasting our minds so we don’t have bad desires or plans to hurt others; fasting our mouth so we don’t slander or backbiting to damage others’ dignity and reputation.

            To do a proper fasting, Jesus taught: "And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,so that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

           

III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:                     

            - Lent reminds us of God’s love through giving us His Only Son to take away our sins. We should live our life in a way that corresponds with this love.

            - The most important thing we need to do in Lent is to reconcile with God through the sacrament of Reconciliation.

            - We must make our spiritual life firm through our practice of the three columns of Lent, which are: to fast, to pray and to give alms.