Entrance Antiphon: Wis 11: 24, 25, 27
You are merciful to all, O Lord, and despise nothing that you have made. You overlook people’s sins, to bring them to repentance, and you spare them, for you are the Lord our God.
Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting, this campaign of Christian service, so that as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
First reading: Joel 2:12-18
‘Now, now – it is the Lord who speaks – come back to me with all your heart, fasting, weeping, mourning.’ Let your hearts be broken, not your garments torn, turn to the Lord your God again, for he is all tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in graciousness, and ready to relent. Who knows if he will not turn again, will not relent, will not leave a blessing as he passes, oblation and libation for the Lord your God? Sound the trumpet in Zion! Order a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly, call the people together, summon the community, assemble the elders, gather the children, even the infants at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his bedroom and the bride her alcove. Between vestibule and altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, lament. Let them say, ‘Spare your people, the Lord! Do not make your heritage a thing of shame, a byword for the nations. Why should it be said among the nations, “Where is their God?”’ Then the Lord, jealous on behalf of his land, took pity on his people.
R/Have mercy on us, O Lord, for we have sinned.
- Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness. In your compassion blot out my offence. O wash me more and more from my guilt and cleanse me from my sin.
- My offences 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.
- A pure heart create for me, O God, put a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, nor deprive me of your holy spirit.
- Give me again the joy of your help; with a spirit of fervour sustain me, O Lord, open my lips and my mouth shall declare your praise.
Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2
We are ambassadors for Christ; it is as though God were appealing through us, and the appeal that we make in Christ’s name is: be reconciled to God. For our sake God made the sinless one into sin, so that in him we might become the goodness of God. As his fellow workers, we beg you once again not to neglect the grace of God that you have received. For he says: At the favourable time, I have listened to you; on the day of salvation I came to your help. Well, now is the favourable time; this is the day of salvation.
Gospel Acclamation: Ps50:12,14
Praise to you, O Christ, king of eternal glory! A pure heart create for me, O God, and give me again the joy of your help. Praise to you, O Christ, king of eternal glory!
Gospel Matthew: 6:1-6,16-18
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Be careful not to parade your good deeds before men to attract their notice; by doing this you will lose all reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give alms, do not have it trumpeted before you; this is what the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win men’s admiration. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you give alms, your left hand must not know what your right is doing; your almsgiving must be secret, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you. ‘And when you pray, do not imitate the hypocrites: they love to say their prayers standing up in the synagogues and at the street corners for people to see them; I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you pray, go to your private room and, when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in that secret place, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you. ‘When you fast do not put on a gloomy look as the hypocrites do: they pull long faces to let men know they are fasting. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that no one will know you are fasting except your Father who sees all that is done in secret; and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.’
Prayer over the Offerings
As we solemnly offer the annual sacrifice for the beginning of Lent, we entreat you, O Lord, that, through works of penance and charity, we may turn away from harmful pleasures and, cleansed from our sins, may become worthy to celebrate devoutly the Passion of your Son. Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
Communion Antiphon: Cf. Ps 1: 2-3
He who ponders the law of the Lord day and night will yield fruit in due season.
Prayer after Communion
May the Sacrament we have received sustain us, O Lord, that our Lenten fast may be pleasing to you and be for us a healing remedy. Through Christ our Lord.
Prayer over the People
Pour out a spirit of compunction, O God, on those who bow before your majesty, and by your mercy, may they merit the rewards you promise to those who do penance. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Ashes are left overs, when something is burned. It is a time to turn our sins into ashes so they can be blown away by the Redeemer. We are sorry for things we have done wrong and are willing to get rid of forever. We wish to leave our old ways behind and become new repented and reconciled people for the Lord. Fasting, abstinence, alms giving and prayer will not only be forms of penance, but also a call for us to take stock of our spiritual lives. As Lent begins, we should set out specific spiritual goals we would like to reach before Easter and decide how we will pursue them; by going to daily Mass when we can and receiving the Sacrament of Confession more often not forgetting to pray the stations of the cross in private, in the family or in the community. Each section of our gospel addresses a practice of individual piety that was widely practiced by Jews of Jesus’ time. Jewish teachers used language similar to Jesus’ to condemn those who paraded their piety for public show. If you act in a way designed to secure the notice of others, your deeds of « righteousness » yield no reward. And this does not condemn public piety. Let our reception of the ashes inspire us to more humility.