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Ash Wednesday

Joel 2:12-18; 2 Cor. 5:20-6:2 & Mt.6:1-6, 16-18

Are you hungry for God and do you thirst for His holiness? He wants to set our hearts ablaze with the fire of His Holy Spirit that we may share in His holiness - and radiate the joy of the Gospel to those around us.

Saint Augustine of Hippo tells us that there are two kinds of people and two kinds of love, “One is holy, the other is selfish. One is subject to God; the other endeavours to equal Him.” We are what we love.

God wants to free our hearts from all that would keep us captive to selfishness and sin. “Rend your hearts and not your garments,” says the prophet Joel (2:12). The Holy Spirit is ever ready to transform our hearts and to lead us further in God’s way of truth and holiness.

Why did Jesus single out prayer, fasting, and almsgiving for His disciples? The Jews considered these three as the cardinal works of the religious life. They were seen as the key signs of a pious person, the three great pillars on which the good life was based.

But why do you pray, fast and give alms? To draw attention to yourself so that others may notice and think highly of you? Or to give glory to God? The Lord warns His disciples of self-seeking glory – the preoccupation with looking good and seeking praise from others. True piety is something more than feeling good or looking holy – it is loving devotion to God, an attitude of awe, reverence, worship and obedience. It is a gift and working of the Holy Spirit that enables us to devote our lives to God with a holy desire to please Him in all things (Isaiah 11:1-2).

What is the sure reward which Jesus points out to His disciples? It is communion with God our Father. In Him alone we find the fullness of life, happiness and truth. May the prayer of Augustine, recorded in his Confessions, be our prayer this Lent, “When I am completely united to You, there will be no more sorrows or trials; entirely full of You, my life will be complete.” The Lord wants to renew us each day and give us new hearts of love and compassion. Do we want to grow in our love for God and for our neighbour? Seek Him expectantly in prayer, with fasting, and in generous giving to those in need.

The 40 days of Lent is the annual retreat of the people of God in imitation of Jesus' 40 days in the wilderness. Forty is a significant number in the Scriptures: Moses went to the mountain to seek the face of God for 40 days in prayer and fasting; the people of Israel were in the wilderness for 40 years in preparation for their entry into the promised land; Elijah fasted for 40 days as he journeyed in the wilderness to the mountain of God.

We are called to journey with the Lord in a special season of prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and penitence as we prepare to celebrate the feast of Easter, the Christian Passover. The Lord gives us spiritual food and supernatural strength to seek His face and to prepare ourselves for spiritual combat and testing. We, too, must follow in the way of the Cross in order to share in the victory of Christ's death and resurrection. As we begin this holy season of testing and preparation, let's ask the Lord for a fresh outpouring of His Holy Spirit that we may grow in faith, hope and love, and embrace His will more fully in our lives.

May you have a blessed and joyous Lent, knowing that God's mercy and love are there for all of us – AND ALL THAT EACH OF US HAS TO DO IS TO GO TO CONFESSION!

Lord Jesus, give us a lively faith, a firm hope, a fervent charity and a great love of You. Take from us all lukewarmness in the meditation of Your word and dullness in prayer. Give us fervour and delight in thinking of You and Your grace, and fill us with compassion for others, especially those in need, that we may respond with generosity.

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