Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on March 5, 2014

jesus_icon_unknownGospel reading of the day:

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 others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: What we do constitutes who we are. We cannot be giving people if we don’t give. We cannot be prayerful people if we don’t pray. We can’t master ourselves if we don’t practice self-control. It’s easy to walk by homeless people without giving them something and still imagine we are loving. It’s easy to rarely if ever turn our minds to God and still fancy we are reflective. It’s easy to get diverted by every whim and still believe we are disciplined. Physical exercise, however, provides a good analogy for the spiritual life. The more we exercise, the stronger we become, the more we can endure, and the greater our flexibility. But we stop exercising, and the benefits we realized while we were working out begin to slip away. After a time, it’s almost as though we had never exercised. In the same way, it’s easy to deceive ourselves that we are giving, prayerful, self-disciplined people because we have been charitable earlier in our lives, meditated when we were young, or fasted several years ago during Lent. Lent reminds us that we are what we do: the present is where we realize ourselves. If we want to be loving, contemplative, and disciplined, we need to do things in the present that makes those things real today. What we did yesterday, or last month, or last year is not enough to make us what we want to be today. Lent is a way to focus our minds on right now–today. It is a way of reminding us that we become whole by doing wholesome things and that what we do today is the only thing that counts.

Saint of the day: Ash Wednesday is the Wednesday 40 days before Easter (excluding Sundays and the Triduum.) The name dies cinerum (day of ashes) which it bears in the Roman Missal is found in the earliest existing copies of the Gregorian Sacramentary and probably dates from at least the eighth century. On this day all the faithful according to ancient custom are exhorted to approach the altar before the beginning of Mass, and there the priest, dipping his thumb into ashes previously blessed, marks the forehead in the sign of the cross, saying the words: “Remember man that you are dust and unto dust you shall return.” The ashes used in this ceremony are made by burning the remains of the palms blessed on the Palm Sunday of the previous year. In AshWednesdaythe blessing of the ashes four prayers are used, all of them ancient. The ashes are sprinkled with holy water and fumigated with incense. The celebrant himself receives, either standing or seated, the ashes from someone else. In earlier ages a penitential procession often followed the rite of the distribution of the ashes, but this is not now prescribed.

Spiritual reading: Even the darkest moments of the liturgy are filled with joy, and Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the lenten fast, is a day of happiness, a Christian feast. The Paschal Mystery is above all the mystery of life in which the Church, by celebrating the death and resurrection of Christ, enters into the Kingdom of Life which He has established once for all by His definitive victory over sin and death. We must remember the original meaning of Lent, as the ‘ver sacrum’, the Church’s ‘holy spring’ in which the catechumens were prepared for their baptism, and public penitents were made ready by penance for their restoration to the sacramental life in a communion with the rest of the Church. Lent is then not a season of punishment so much as one of healing. (Thomas Merton)


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