Entrance Antiphon:  Wis 11:24.25.27

You are merciful to all, O Lord, and despise nothing that you have made. You overlook the sins of man, to bring him to repentance, for you are the Lord our God.

Collect
Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting this campaign of Christians service, so that we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint. Through our Lord.

FIRST READING 
A reading from the Book of the Prophet Joel 2:12-18
“Tear your hearts and not your garments.”

“Even now,” says the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and tear your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the LORD, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy, and repents of evil. Who knows whether he will not turn and repent, and leave a blessing behind him, a cereal offering and a drink offering for the Lord, your God? 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. Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep and say, “Spare your people, O Lord, and make not your heritage a reproach, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?”’ Then the Lord became jealous for his land, and had pity on his people.
The word of the Lord.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM   Ps 51:3-4.5-6ab.12- 13.14 and 17 (R. cf. 3a)
R/. Have mercy, O Lord, for we have sinned.

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your merciful love;
according to your great compassion,
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me completely from my iniquity,
And cleanse me from my sin. R/.

My transgressions, truly I know them;
my sin is always before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned;
what is evil in your sight I have done. R/.

Create a pure heart for me, O God;
Renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence;
take not your holy spirit from me. R/.

Restore in me the joy of your salvation;
Sustain in me a willing spirit.
O Lord, open my lips
And my mouth shall proclaim your praise. R/.

SECOND READING          
A reading from the second Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians, 2Corinthians5:20—6:2
“Be reconciled to God. Behold, now is the acceptable time.”

Brethren: We are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beg 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. Working together with him, then, we entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, “At the acceptable time I have listened to you, and helped you on the day of salvation.” Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
The word of the Lord.

Glory and praise to you, O Christ.
Today, harden not your hearts, but listen to the voice of the Lord.
Glory and praise to you, O Christ.

GOSPEL
“Your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew (Matthew 6: 1-6.16- 18)

At that time: Jesus said to his disciples, “Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, 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 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. “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 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. “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 their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 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.”
The Gospel of the Lord.

Today’s Reflection
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Lenten Season. Lent is a season in the Church’s liturgical calendar when the members are expected to be sorry for their sins, do penance, sacrifice, give alms, and intensify and enrich their prayer life. It is called Ash Wednesday because of the ash each person is expected to be marked with on the forehead, to remind us of our sinfulness and mortality. Today’s Gospel is appropriate for Lenten observances. It touches on three important religious practices, namely: almsgiving, fasting and prayer. All these practices are very important for a deeper spiritual communion. However, Christians should not be showy in observing any of these. Any form of attention-seeking behavior contradicts true piety.

True piety is secretly practicing these acts, acknowledging God who sees in secret. Desist from unnecessary attention. Be humble.

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