February 14, 2018

Ash Wed

February 14, 2018:  Ash Wednesday

See a dozen connections with today?
Legend below
Listen

For Psalm 51 (of the many settings)

Lenten message:  God offers us Lent as a sacramental sign of our conversion, to summon and enable us to come back to him in every aspect of our life.  Jesus' preached about the end:  "Because of the increase of iniquity, the love of many will grow cold."  He foretold a great tribulation with believers being tried, false prophets leading people astray, and love growing cold.

False prophets can appear as “snake charmers,” manipulating emotions to lead and enslave others.  Monetary pleasures mesmerize many, masking as happiness!  Dreams of wealth entrance many and enslave them to profit and petty interests!  People who believe they're self-sufficient get entrapped by loneliness!

False prophets can also be “charlatans” offering quick solutions to suffering that prove useless.  Drugs, disposable relationships, and easy but dishonest gains take young people in; “virtual” existence, with its quick but meaningless relationships, ensnare more!  These swindlers rob people of their precious dignity, freedom, and ability to love.  They appeal to our vanity and trust in appearances, then make fools of us.  The “liar and father of lies” presents evil as good, falsehood as truth.  Peer into your heart; are you falling prey to lies?  Look beneath the surface; recognize what comes from God for our benefit and leaves a good and lasting mark on your heart.

A cold heart:  Dante pictures hell with the devil seated on a throne of ice, in loveless isolation.  How does charity turn cold within us?  What are the signs our love cooling?  Greed destroys charity more than anything; soon follows rejection of God and his peace; we prefer desolation to the comfort of God's word and sacraments, then turn against anyone we think a threat:  unborn children, the sick and elderly, migrants, aliens, all who don't live up to our expectations.  Creation itself becomes a silent witness:  the earth poisoned by refuse, seas polluted, skies rent by engines dropping bombs.  Love can also grow cold through selfishness, spiritual sloth, pessimism, self-absorption, warring among ourselves, undue concern for appearances, weakened missionary zeal.

The Church offers us in Lent the soothing remedy of prayer, almsgiving, and fasting:  In prayer we our secret lies and forms of self-deception are rooted out, and we find the consolation of Father who wants us to live well.  Almsgiving sets us free from greed and helps us respect our neighbor.  May the sharing of our possessions bear witness to our communion in the Church!  May we see requests for help as coming from God himself.  When we give, we share God’s care for his children.  If God helps someone through me today, won't he provide for my needs tomorrow?  Fasting disarms us and helps us grow; it lets us experience what the destitute have to endure, expresses our spiritual hunger and thirst for God, wakes us up, makes us more attentive to God and others, and revives our desire to obey God, who alone can satisfy.  All you, Catholic or not, open to God's voice, join together in raising a plea to God, in fasting and offering what you can to the needy!

The fire of Easter:  Take up this journey with enthusiasm.  If the flame of love seems to die in your heart, know it never does in God's.  One moment of grace will be “24 Hours for the Lord,” March 9-10, celebrating the sacrament of Reconciliation in the context of Eucharistic adoration, inspired by Ps 130:4.  In each diocese, at least one church will remain open 24 consecutive hours, for both Eucharistic adoration and sacramental confession.

At the Easter Vigil we'll again light the Easter candle.  Drawn from the “new fire,” the light will overcome the darkness and illuminate the assembly.  “May the light of Christ rising in glory dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds” and enable us to relive the experience of the disciples en route to Emmaus.  By listening to God’s word and drawing nourishment from the Eucharist, may we be ever more ardent in faith, hope, and love.  Full text

General audience:  Everyone at Mass has the right to receive the treasure of God's word, read well, proclaimed well, then explained well in the homily.  After the homily and some silence, we profess our faith:  we recite the Creed, bridging Baptism, the Word, and Eucharist; we respond to what we've heard and received.  Then comes the Prayer of the Faithful, called the Universal Prayer because it embraces all the needs of the Church and the world.  In this exercise of the baptismal priesthood of God's people, we make our own the loving gaze of God, who cares for his children, and pray for holy Church, civil authorities, the oppressed, everyone, and the salvation of the world.  We don't believe Jesus' words, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you,” because we have little faith.  Have great faith when we pray together at Mass.  Official

Read
  • Jl 2:12-18  Return to me with fasting and weeping; rend your hearts.  The Lord is gracious, merciful, kind, and relenting.  Proclaim a fast; gather the people; say, “Lord, spare your people, and don't make your heritage a reproach.”  Then the Lord took pity.
  • Ps 51:3-6ab, 12-14, 17  "Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned."  I acknowledge my offense.  Create a clean heart for me.  Don't cast me out from your presence.  Give me back the joy of your salvation.  Open my lips, and I'll proclaim your praise.
  • 2 Cor 5:20-6:2  We're ambassadors for Christ.  Be reconciled to God who made Jesus who didn't know sin to be sin, so we might become God's righteousness.  Now is a very acceptable time; now is the day of salvation.
  • Mt 6:1-6, 16-18  “Don't do righteous deeds so that people see them.  When you give alms, pray, or fast, don't call attention to it like hypocrites do.  Do it in secret; your Father will see and repay you.”
Reflect
  • Creighton:  “We are ambassadors for Christ,” to reflect Christ’s presence.  During Lent we're invited ask how well we're living that identity.  Today Jesus invites us to name any obstacles:  How do we pray to let Christ’s presence shine through us?   Does our consumption obscure Christ’s presence?  Are we generous, selfless, living for God and neighbor, or self-centered?  Our social conditioning doesn't lead us to become Christ’s ambassadors, but the Holy Spirit does if we let him transform us.
  • One Bread, One Body:  "Stir the Lord to concern":  Nothing causes more joy in heaven than a repentant sinner.  The Lord can't resist a humble, contrite heart.  Austerity, self-denial, and discipline only flow from one set on fire from the mercy of the Lord, who thirsts to love us.  This Lent, immerse yourself in God's merciful love and abandon yourself to him.
  • Passionist:  Our lives and deaths are never in vain if we touch hearts.  We're told not to receive God's grace in vain. May we live as transparent instruments of that grace, praying, giving alms, loving generously, treating each person with the dignity due Christ himself, conscious of our responsibility as children of Love, allowing God to change us....
  • DailyScripture.net:  "When you pray, fast, and give alms":  God wants to set us ablaze with his Spirit that we may share in his holiness and radiate gospel joy.  "There are two kinds of people and two kinds of love:  one holy, the other selfish; one subject to God, the other trying to equal him" (Augustine).  We are what we love.  God wants to free us from all that would keep us captive.  The Spirit is ready to transform and lead us.
Jews considered prayer, fasting, and almsgiving as cardinal works of the religious life, key signs of a pious person, three pillars on which the good life was based.  Do you pray, fast, and give alms to draw attention to yourself or give glory to God?  The Lord warned his disciples against preoccupation with looking good and seeking praise.  True piety is loving devotion to God, awe, reverence, worship, obedience; it's a gift and work of the Spirit that enables us to devote our lives to God desiring to please him in all things.
Now available :-)
In God alone do we find life, happiness, and truth. "When I'm completely united to you, there will be no more sorrows or trials; full of you, my life will be complete" (Augustine).  The Lord wants to renew us and give us hearts of love and compassion.  May we seek God in prayer and fasting, generously giving to those in need, and so grow in love for God and neighbor.
Forty is significant in the scriptures:  days Moses went to the mountain seeking God's face, years the Israelites were in the wilderness preparing to enter the promised land, days Elijah fasted on the way to the mountain of God.  We're called to journey with God and prepare for Easter.  The Lord gives us nourishment and strength to seek him and prepare for spiritual combat and testing. We must follow the way of the cross to share the victory of the resurrection.  Lord, pour out your Spirit that we may grow in faith, hope, and love and embrace your will more fully.
  • Methodius translated liturgical texts to Slavonic and invented Glagolithic and maybe the Cyrillic alphabet, evangelized; see also Wikipedia.
  • Cyril, Methodius's brother, also translated texts and co-invented the alphabets, preached; see also Wikipedia.
Dress legend
  • 'Phone' tie bar:  'Call' an assembly (1st reading) [oops; forgot this one]
  • 'Children' pin:  Gather the children! (1st reading)
  • '?' tie pin:  "Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’” (1st reading)
  • 'Boundless mercy' button:  The Lord is gracious and merciful (1st reading); "Be merciful..." (psalm)
  • 'Heart' pin:  "Rend your heart"; "return to me with your whole heart" (1st reading); "create for me a clean heart" (psalm); harden not your hearts (gospel acclamation)
  • 'Angel with trumpet' pin:  "Blow the trumpet" (1st reading); don't blow a trumpet when you give alms (gospel)
  • 'Musical notes with "joy"' pin:  Give me back the joy of your salvation (psalm)
  • NEW 'Lips' 3D sticker (new; thanks, Bernardine ♥):  Lord, open my lips,... (psalm)
  • 'Car with mouth' pin:  ...and my mouth shall proclaim your praise (psalm)
  • 'Dove' pin:  Don't take your Holy Spirit from me (psalm)
  • 'Clocks' suspenders:  "In an acceptable time I heard you.... Now is a very acceptable time..." (2nd reading)
  • 'Hands' tie:  "When you give alms, don't let your left hand know what your right is doing" (gospel)
    • Washed face (not shown):  When you fast,...  wash your face (gospel)
    • Ashes on forehead (not shown):  Ash Wednesday; "you're dust and shall return to dust"
    • Purple shirt:  Lenten season