Week of Ash Wednesday

Wednesday, March 5, Ash Wednesday

"Dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return." Gn. 3:19
Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God. (Joel 2:13)

Reflection

The liturgical use of ashes originated in the Old Testament times. Ashes symbolized mourning, mortality and penance. In the Book of Esther, Mordecai put on sackcloth and ashes when he heard of the decree of King Ahasuerus to kill all of the Jewish people in the Persian Empire (Esther 4:1). Job repented in sackcloth and ashes (Job 42:6). Prophesying the Babylonian captivity of Jerusalem, Daniel wrote, "I turned to the Lord God, pleading in earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes" (Daniel 9:3).

Jesus made reference to ashes, "If the miracles worked in you had taken place in Tyre and Sidon, they would have reformed in sackcloth and ashes long ago" (Matthew 11:21).

In the Middle Ages, the priest would bless the dying person with holy water, saying, "Remember that thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return." The Church adapted the use of ashes to mark the beginning of the penitential season of Lent, when we remember our mortality and mourn for our sins. In our present liturgy for Ash Wednesday, we use ashes made from the burned palm branches distributed on the Palm Sunday of the previous year. The priest blesses the ashes and imposes them on the foreheads of the faithful, making the sign of the cross and saying, "Remember, man you are dust and to dust you shall return," or "Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel." As we begin this holy season of Lent in preparation for Easter, we must remember the significance of the ashes we have received: We mourn and do penance for our sins. We again convert our hearts to the Lord, who suffered, died, and rose for our salvation. We renew the promises made at our baptism, when we died to an old life and rose to a new life with Christ. Finally, mindful that the kingdom of this world passes away, we strive to live the kingdom of God now and look forward to its fulfillment in heaven.

Lenten Question

Q: What is Lent?
A: Lent is the forty day period before Easter, excluding Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday (the day before Easter Sunday). [This traditional ennumeration does not precisely coincide with the calendar according to the liturgical reform. In order to give special prominence to the Sacred Triduum (Mass of the Lord's Supper, Good Friday, Easter Vigil) the current calendar counts Lent as only from Ash Wednesday to Holy Thursday, up to the Mass of the Lord's Supper. Even so, Lenten practices are properly maintained up to the Easter Vigil, excluding Sundays, as before.]

Lenten Action

Invite a non-practicing friend to Mass with you.

Prayer

Almighty and everlasting God, you despise nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent. Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our brokenness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Amen.

Ash Wednesday is a day of both fasting and abstinence.

March 6 - March 8

Thursday, March 6

"Whoever wishes to be my follower must deny his very self, take up his cross each day, and follow in my steps." (Luke 9:23)

Reflection

What to Give Up...
Give up complaining... focus on gratitude
Give up pessimism... become an optimist
Give up harsh judgments... think kindly thoughts
Give up worry... trust Divine Providence
Give up discouragement... be full of hope
Give up bitterness... turn to forgiveness
Give up hatred... return good for evil
Give up negativism... be positive
Give up anger... be more patient
Give up pettiness... become mature
Give up gloom... enjoy the beauty that is all around you
Give up jealousy... pray for trust
Give up gossiping... control your tongue
Give up sin... turn to virtue
Give up giving up... hang in there!

Lenten Question

Q: Why are the forty days called Lent?
A: They are called Lent because that is the Old English word for spring, the season of the year during which they fall. This is something unique to English. In almost all other languages its name is a derivative of the Latin term, or "the forty days."

Lenten Action

Think of a person with whom you have a strained relationship and make some gesture toward improving that relationship.

Prayer

Direct our actions, Lord, by your holy inspiration and carry them forward by your gracious help, that all our works may begin in you and by you be happily ended.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever.
Amen.

Friday, March 7

The Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence from meat.
This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed. (Isaiah 58:6)

Reflection

We must always remember what God tells us in Scripture: "Even if a mother could forget the child in her womb" - something impossible, but even if she could forget - "I will never forget you."
And so here I am talking with you. I want you to find the poor here, right in your own home first. And begin love there. Be that good news to your own people first. And find out about your next-door neighbors. Do you know who they are?
I had the most extraordinary experience of love of neighbor with a Hindu family. A gentleman came to our house and said: "Mother Teresa, there is a family who have not eaten for so long. Do something." So I took some rice and went there immediately. And I saw the children - their eyes shining with hunger. I don't know if you have ever seen hunger. But I have seen it very often. And the mother of the family took the rice I gave her and went out. When she came back, I asked her: "Where did you go? What did you do?" And she gave me a very simple answer: "They are hungry also." What struck me was that she knew - and who are they? A Muslim family - and she knew. I didn't bring any more rice that evening because I wanted them, Hindus and Muslims, to enjoy the joy of sharing.
..... Mother Teresa

Lenten Question

Q: What is a day of fast and abstinence?
A: Under current canon law in the Western Rite of the Church, a day of fast is one on which Catholics who are eighteen to sixty years old are required to keep a limited fast. In this country, one may eat a single, normal meal and have two snacks, so long as these snacks do not add up to a second meal. Children are not required to fast, but their parents must ensure they are properly educated in the spiritual practice of fasting. Those with medical conditions requiring a greater or more regular food intake can easily be dispensed from the requirement of fasting by their pastor. A day of abstinence is a day on which Catholics fourteen years or older are required to abstain from eating meat (under the current discipline in America, fish, eggs, milk products, and condiments or foods made using animal fat are permitted in the Western Rite of the Church, though not in the Eastern Rites.) Again, persons with special dietary needs can easily be dispensed by their pastor.

Lenten Action

Schedule a fifteen minute period of silence today to listen to your heart and to the Lord speaking to you.

Prayer

Lord, with your loving care guide the penance we have begun. Help us to persevere with love and sincerity.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.

Saturday, March 8

If you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; Then light shall rise for you in the darkness. (Isaiah 58:10)

Reflection

"Repent, and believe in the gospel," Jesus told the crowds (Mark 1:15).
Perhaps at times we listen to sermons or read the gospels and apply the message to others. Often we can think of many people who need to repent. However we must be careful not to apply the gospel only to others. This call to repentance applies first of all to you and me. Recall that Jesus often preached in the synagogues and at the temple. He was preaching to the church goers and church workers. The call to repentance was not just to those sinners out there. The message of repentance is for Church leaders and workers. It is for you and me.

Lenten Question

Q: When does Lent begin?
A: Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which is the day on which the faithful have their foreheads signed with ashes in the form of a Cross. It is also a day of fast and abstinence.

Lenten Action

Make a note on your calendar to participate in the Sacrament of Penance.

Prayer

Father,
look upon our weakness and reach out to help us with your loving power.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.