Ash Wednesday

  1.     From Fr. Tony Kadavil’s Collection 
Introduction
Ash Wednesday (dies cinerum) is the Church’s Yom Kippur or the “Day of Atonement.” Its very name comes from the Jewish practice of doing penance wearing “sackcloth and ashes.” In the early Church, Christians who had committed serious sins were instructed to do public penance wearing sackcloth and ashes. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of full fast and abstinence. Fasting is prescribed to reinforce our penitential prayer during the Lenten season. The prophet Joel, in the first reading, insists that we should experience a complete conversion of heart and not simply sorrow for our sins. Saint Paul in the second reading advises us “to become reconciled to God.” Today’s gospel instructs us to assimilate the true spirit of fasting and prayer.

 The blessing of the ashes and the significance of the day: The priest, dipping his thumb into ashes (collected from burnt palms of the previous Palm Sunday), marks the forehead of each with the sign of the cross, saying the words, "Remember that are dust and to dust you will return" or “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” By marking the sign of the cross with ashes on the foreheads of her children, the Church gives us:
1) A firm conviction that:
a) we are mortal beings,
b) our bodies will become dust when buried and ashes if cremated, and
c) our life-span is very brief and unpredictable; 
2) A strong warning that we will be eternally punished if we do not repent of our sins and do penance; and
3) A loving invitation to realize and acknowledge our sinful condition and return to our loving and forgiving God with true repentance, as the prodigal son did.
 Life messages: 
We are invited to effect a real conversion and renewal of life during the period of Lent by fasting, penance, and reconciliation.  
I- We are to do prayerful fasting:  
a) by following the example of Jesus before his public ministry, and
b) by imitating the king and the people of Nineveh (Jon 3: 7), who fasted in sackcloth pleading for mercy from the Lord God, the Syrian King, Ben Hadad (I Kings 20: 31-34), who did not fast, but wore sackcloth and begged Israel’s King Ahab for his life), Queen Esther who fasted, begging God to save her people (Est 4:16), the soldiers of Judas Maccabaeus who fasted so greatly they felt too weak to fight (1 Mc 3:17) and St. Paul who observed "frequent fastings" (2 Cor 11:27). 
(Historical note: In the past, the Greek Orthodox Christians had 180 days of fasting and the Orthodox as well as Catholic Syrian Christians had 225 to 290 days of fasting every year. The Roman church also had a number of fast days. Technically speaking, fasting is now only required on two days in Lent, namely, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. In the United States, abstinence alone is commanded on all Fridays of Lent).
 Fasting:
True fasting is “tearing one’s heart and returning to God” with true repentance for one’s sins (Joel 2:13). It is “breaking unjust fetters, freeing the oppressed, sharing one’s bread with the hungry, clothing with the naked and home with the homeless, and not turning away from the needy relatives” (Is. 58:6-7).  
Advantages of fasting:
a - It reduces the excessive accumulation of “fat” in our soul in the form of evil tendencies and evil habits (=spiritual obesity).
b - It gives us additional moral and spiritual strength.
c - It offers us more time to be with God in prayer.
d - It encourages us to share our food and goods with the needy.
e - “There is joy in the salutary fasting and abstinence of Christians who eat and drink less in order that their minds may be clearer and more receptive to receive the sacred nourishment of God's word, which the whole Church announces and meditates upon in each day's liturgy throughout Lent” (Thomas Merton). 
II - We are to lead a life of penance because:
1 - It is the model given by Jesus.
2 - It was his teaching: “If any one wishes to follow me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” “Try to enter through the narrow gate.”
3 - Theological reasons: a) it removes the weakness left by sin in our souls, b) it pays the temporary debt caused by sin, and c) it makes our prayers more fruitful.
III - We are to enlarge our hearts for reconciliation.
By receiving the ashes, we confess that we are sinners in need of the mercy of God, and we ask forgiveness for the various ways in which we have hurt our brothers and sisters. In the recent past, our Catholic community has experienced acute suffering caused by the scandalous behavior of a few of our spiritual leaders. Lent is a time for forgiveness and reconciliation. Let us allow the spirit of forgiveness to work its healing influence in our parishes and families. God bless you. 
Ash Wednesday agenda: By Almsgiving, we highlight others more important than ourselves and give ourselves to them as Jesus gave Himself to others. By Prayer, we highlight God as most important in our life, magnifying Him, humbling ourselves (thus realizing the distance between Him and us), and trying to come to come closer to the Lord. By Fasting, we discover our personal self and see who we really are. Cutting, pruning and disciplining ourselves will be part of this job. Doing all these three things with joyful heart and mind will prepare us to rise with Jesus. (Fr. Raj).
 Anecdotes
1) “Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?”
Some of the senior citizens here today can remember a song that was popular exactly 41 years ago. In 1971, a group from Canada called the Five Man Electrical Band had a hit called “Signs.” The song is about how signs are always telling us what to do, and the chorus says, “Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?” Four decades later, the question it poses – “Can’t you read the sign?” — is one we might ask ourselves today. We are going to be signed with ash - the sign of our faith, the cross. “Can’t you read the sign?” The cross of ashes means that we are making a commitment – that we are undertaking Lent as a season of prayer and penitence, of dying to ourselves. It also describes our human condition: it says that we are broken, and need repair; that we are sinners and need redemption. Most importantly, it tells us that, as followers of Jesus Christ, we are to carry our crosses. It also reminds us that we are dust and ashes – mortal human beings carrying an immortal soul. (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/deaconsbench/)  
2) Kill the Cyclops in you: The Cyclops is that strange monster of Greek mythology with one big eye in the middle of its forehead. We pretend to ignore the truth that, for 325 days of each year, we are all Cyclopes because there is ONE GREAT BIG “I” right in our heads! If we are skeptical about this assertion, we might watch our words for one day, from morning to night. What’s the first thing we think about each morning? “What am I going to do today? How will I do it? What will happen to me today? How will I feel today?” I, I, I. And all day long, what do we say to people? We say things like, “I think this” and “I think that” and “I agree” and “I disagree” and “I like this” and “I don’t like that” and “I just want to say...” I, I, I. And what’s the last thing that we think about at night? “I wish that so-and-so would stop doing thus-and-such to me” and “I really did a good job today” and “I wonder what I’ll do tomorrow.” The problem with seeing with one eye is that we’re half blind. Everything looks flat and two-dimensional because with only one eye, we have no depth-perception. Consequently, we go wrong in assessing people. In Greek mythology, the Cyclops was killed when Odysseus and four of his men took a spare staff of the Cyclops, hardened its tip in the fire and used that to destroy the monster’s one big eye. It is precisely this that we must do on Ash Wednesday. With two strokes of his thumb smeared with ash on our forehead, the priest will cross that “I” out of our head. By this sacramental ritual we are asked to take that “I” at the front of our mind and cross it out by “self-denial” and “self- mortification.” Doing so will help us to see the beautiful creatures of God all around us and replace “I” with “You." (Condensed from Fr. J. K. Horn)
 3)  A little boy had just returned home from an Ash Wednesday church service. The little girl from next door asked him what the smudge was on his forehead. He replied, "It's Ash Wednesday." "What's Ash Wednesday?" she asked. "Oh," he replied, "It's when Christians begin their diet." 
4)  It was Ash Wednesday, and a woman sifting in a crowded Catholic church, leaned over to the young man next to her and asked: "What is it that brings so many people out on a cold night, to get a little dirt smeared on their foreheads, and to be reminded that they are sinners and that they are going to die?" He looked at her somewhat oddly and said, "It's habit, I guess."
5)  A two-year-old had gone with her family to her church's Ash Wednesday service. She was upset that her mother was not taking her to the altar with the rest of the family. She was overheard exclaiming: "But I want to get a tattoo just like Daddy's!"
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2.    From the Connections: 
THE WORD:
The readings for this first day of the Lenten journey to Easter call us to turn.
 In Hebrew, the word for repentance is to turn, like the turning of the earth to the sun at this time of year, like the turning of soil before spring planting.  The Lenten journey that begins on this Ash Wednesday calls us to repentance -- to turn away from those things that separate us from God and re-turn to the Lord.
 
In today’s Gospel, from his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus instructs his listeners on the Christian attitude and disposition toward prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  Such acts are meaningful only if they are outward manifestations of the essential turningthat has taken place within our hearts.
Around 400 B.C., a terrible invasion of locusts ravaged Judah.  The prophet Joel saw this catastrophe as a symbol of the coming “Day of the Lord.”   The prophet summoned the people to repent, to turn to the Lord with fasting, prayer and works of charity. 
In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul alternates between anger and compassion, between frustration and affection in defending his authority and mandate as an apostle in the face of attack by some members of the Corinthian community.  In today’s second reading, the apostle appeals for reconciliation among the members of the community, for a re-turn to the one faith shared by the entire Church.
HOMILY POINTS:
As the earth will “turn” toward the sun in the weeks ahead transforming the dark and cold of winter into the light and warmth of spring, so these ashes mark the beginning of a Lenten transformation of our souls and spirits. 
The Spirit who called Jesus to the wilderness calls us, as well, to a forty-day “desert experience,” a time to peacefully and quietly renew and re-create our relationship with God, that he might become the center of our lives in every season.
3.    Fr. Jude Botelho:
 
Once again we begin the season of Lent with this Ash Wednesday celebration. Lent is a time for repentance and renewal yet the Preface of Lent will call it the joyful season of Lent. We should remind ourselves that originally Lent was a time for preparation for Baptism and for Easter. Later on as the practice of adult baptisms died out, it became a time of baptismal renewal as well as a time of repentance and a proximate preparation for Easter. As we begin this new season may we find our joy in coming back to God.
The key ceremony on Ash Wednesday is the imposition of the ashes on our forehead. “Remember thou art dust and to dust thou shall return.” In a sense, this ritual reminds us of our beginning and our end, we are back to basics. It is meant to give us a right perspective of life. We are dust, we are finite, we are human, we are creatures, dependent and capable of mistakes. At times, with all our successes, our possibilities, our capabilities and the power we try to acquire, we are led to believe we can manage on our own, that we don’t need anybody, we don’t need God! Lent puts things in proper perspective. We need God, who does not look down on the dust that we are, our humanness, our weakness, but renew his covenant to human beings, he breathes life into the earth and creates us and recreates us. 
 The first reading from the prophet Joel reminds us that sometimes God invited the people of Israel to come back to Him through the great disasters that befell them. It was after one such disaster that the prophet Joel conveyed to the people the message that God would come to their rescue. The disaster that befell the Israelites at that time was the invasion of locusts that came in large numbers from the desert and devoured everything. The prophet Joel called them to prayer and to penance. He assured them that if they came back to Yahweh, He would provide them with food they needed. He reminded them that everyone should do penance, the priests and the laity, the young and the old, even the children. They needed to ask God’s pardon as a family, as one community and God would forgive them all.
 
The Nail Post
 A father wanted his son to really understand the importance of making right choices, of obeying and doing what’s right. So if his son made a bad choice or a wrong decision, he’s give him a hammer and a nail to take out into the backyard and pound into a fence post. When the son went through the whole day making good decisions, he’d let the boy go out and take out one of those nails. Until the boy was fifteen, there were always two or three nails in the post, -seemed he’d be nailing new ones as often as he’d pull out others. The youth started to mature and make better decisions and finally one day all the nails were removed from the post. That was when his dad took him back and said, “I want you to notice something about the post.” The son looked at the post for a moment and realized that all the nails that once were driven in and then later removed had left small holes in the post. The holes were the remaining effects of the nails. His dad said, “I want to tell you something about bad choices and decisions. Even though you may be totally forgiven from your bad choices or decisions, and there are no nails visible, there are the remaining effects, the consequences, of those choices or decisions; just like the holes in that fencepost.”
Author Unknown
 The Gospel of today speaks to us of three paths that can lead us back to God: Prayer, Fasting and Alms. Jesus reminds us that these three practices by themselves will not lead us to God unless we perform them with a humble heart. Lent is firstly a time for renewing our prayer life. When we pray, do not pray to be seen or heard by others? Is Jesus against praying in public with the community or prayer group? What Jesus is speaking about is the motive of our prayer practices. Are we putting on a performance? Would we do the same if no one was watching? Our community prayer life needs to be balanced with private and personal prayer. The second practice recommended is fasting and abstinence during lent, but we are reminded that how we do it is more important than what we do. If fasting makes us irritable, if we fast with long faces and put on a gloomy look and make all around us miserable, there is something wrong. The heart of fasting is to do without something that we like and believe we can’t do without, in order to realize that God can supply our every need. What about a weekly fast from our favourite TV serial? The third practice of the devout Jew was almsgiving. Again the admonition is the same: “So when you give alms do not have it trumpeted to win men’s admiration.” Almsgiving is any kind of help, material or spiritual we give to our neighbour. We could help our neighbour in need, we could give them good advice or encouragement, we can help someone in spiritual danger, we can encourage people to attend to their spiritual needs. Perhaps the help that people need is more spiritual than material. Are we bringing people to Jesus by our words, our good example and our deeds?
A Good Lesson
 A young man, a student in one of our universities, was one day taking a walk with a professor, who was commonly called the students' friend, from his kindness to those who waited on his instructions. As they went along, they saw lying in the path a pair of old shoes, which they supposed belonged to a poor man who was employed in a field close by, and who had nearly finished his day's work. The student turned to the professor, saying: "Let us play the man a trick: we will hide his shoes, and conceal ourselves behind those bushes, and wait to see his perplexity when he cannot find them." "My young friend," answered the professor, "we should never amuse ourselves at the expense of the poor. But you are rich, and may give yourself a much greater pleasure by means of the poor man. Put a coin into each shoe, and then we will hide ourselves and watch how the discovery affects him." The student did so, and they both placed themselves behind the bushes close by. The poor man soon finished his work, and came across the field to the path where he had left his coat and shoes. While putting on his coat he slipped his foot into one of his shoes; but feeling something hard, he stooped down to feel what it was, and found the coin. Astonishment and wonder were seen upon his countenance. He gazed upon the coin, turned it round, and looked at it again and again. He then looked around him on all sides, but no person was to be seen. He now put the money into his pocket, and proceeded to put on the other shoe; but his surprise was doubled on finding the other coin. His feelings overcame him; he fell upon his knees, looked up to heaven and uttered aloud a fervent thanksgiving, in which he spoke of his wife, sick and helpless, and his children without bread, whom the timely bounty, from some unknown hand, would save from perishing. The student stood there deeply affected, and his eyes filled with tears. "Now," said the professor, "are you not much better pleased than if you had played your intended trick?" The youth replied, "You have taught me a lesson which I will never forget. I feel now the truth of those words, which I never understood before: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"
Author unknown, retold by Artin Tellalian
 Minor Irritants of Life
 A young man had just hiked across a long, barren stretch of land. Reporters asked what he found hardest about it. “Was it the loneliness of the hike?” “No,” he replied. “Was it the hot sun beating down on you?” “No”, he replied. “Was it the dangerous nights by the roadside?” “No”, he replied.  “Well then, what was it?” “The sand in my shoes,” he said. That is often the case in everyday life. It is not the big things that get us down, more often, it’s the tiny irritations! May be, accepting the tiny irritations with family, friends, colleagues, office workers, that come our way each day, could be a good way to start our Lent!
Anonymous
Renewal
 Once, long ago a musician well-known for the beauty and sweetness of his songs was asked to play for the royal audience. The king was so pleased with the performance that he made the musician part of the royal court. His highness loved one particular song so much that he had the musician play it over and over, several times a day. It went well for the musician who had everything he needed, and fame and prestige as well. After a time the musician grew weary of repeating the melody and no longer played with the same zest and passion as he once did. This disturbed the king, because his favourite song now lacked much of its original vibrancy. So in order to re-kindle the musician’s interest in the song, the king ordered someone, who had never heard the song before, to be brought to the palace everyday. When the musician saw the new person he was inspired and he played with new vigour. But the king was getting tired of finding a new person everyday and so he consulted his advisors who suggested that the musician should be blinded! The musician was drugged into sleep and his eyes put out so he never knew what had happened, and he never saw a human form again. From that time on the blind musician would sit continually before the king. Whenever the king wanted to hear his favourite melody, he would say. “O musician, here comes someone new, a person who has never heard you play before.” And the musician would play his song with the utmost skill and spiritedness, as if for the first time. What is the meaning of this parable? It is left to you to determine! For in the words of an Eastern sage:  “When you go to the market to buy fruit from the green grocer, you do not ask him to chew it for you!”
Anonymous
 Find Someone in Need
 Dr. Karl Menninger, the famous psychiatrist, once gave a lecture on mental health, and then answered questions from the audience. “What would you advice a person to do,” asked one man, “if that person felt a nervous breakdown was coming on?” Most people expected him to reply, “Consult a psychiatrist.” To their disappointment he replied, “Lock your house, go across the railway tracks, find someone in need and do something to help that person.” –Don’t sit and pout. Get up and do something for others!
Brian Cavanaugh in ‘The Sower’s Seed’
 
Ready to Change?
 Once, a king was walking through the streets of the capital city when he came upon a beggar who immediately asked him for money. The king did not give him any money. Instead he invited him to his palace. The beggar took up the king’s offer. On the appointed day he made his way to the royal palace, and was duly ushered into the king’s presence. However as he came into the king’s presence he was acutely conscious of his rags and felt ashamed of them. They were an eloquent symbol of the wretchedness of his life. The king an exceptionally kind man, received him warmly, took pity on him, and among other things gave him a new suit of clothes. However, a few days later the beggar was back to begging on the streets, dressed in his old rags. Why did he give up the new suit? Because he knew that to wear it would mean that he would have to live a new life. It would mean giving up the life of a beggar. This he was not prepared to do. It wasn’t that the new life did not appeal to him. It was just that a change of life would be slow, painful and uncertain. In other words he was too much steeped in habit to change.
Flor McCarthy in ‘New Sunday and Holy day Liturgies’ 
May Lent find us ready to change whatever needs to be changed in our life with God’s help! 
4.    From Sermons.com 
Nowadays the cost of a dinner and a movie keeps going up, and a vacation can be especially expensive, but if I really want to go somewhere I just take the change out of my pocket and lay it on the desk. It's like a time machine. Each coin has a year stamped on it, and just thinking about the year helps me travel back in my memory.

1979 is the year my first son was born and the year I started in ministry. 1981 and 1983 are the years my daughter and second son were born. 1988 is the last time the Dodgers won the pennant. 1990 was when I moved to Indiana from Los Angeles. 1994 and 2004 were the years I turned forty and fifty. 2002 was when I moved to Pennsylvania. And it's getting harder to find, but any coin with 1954 is my birth year.
I enjoy laying out the change in my pocket and just glancing at the dates. It's nice to carry these little reminders of important events, good and bad. But they're just one kind of reminder. We carry all sorts of reminders around. One of the most obvious is our date book, which we use to remind us of important events that are not in the past but in the future. We especially need a reminder for Ash Wednesday. It comes in the middle of nowhere. It's not like Christ­mas or Independence Day that fall on the same dates every year. Ash Wednesday is all over the map, from early February to some­time in March. What usually happens is that we notice someone with a smudge on their forehead and suddenly realize: was that today? Really, it's not very convenient. The least Ash Wednesday could do is fall on a Sunday.
It is an interruption. And it's an unwelcome reminder of an unpleasant fact. Dust we are and to dust we shall return. The grass withers and the flower fades....  
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The Lord's Prayer: A Walking Prayer 
Every evening I walk three miles as part of my losing campaign against high blood pressure and my imperialistic waist line. I generally don't wear an iPod, because I prefer to take my exercise without anesthesia. (I enjoy the sounds of nature, and I want to be able to hear the cars honk before they run me over.) Sometimes I devote the time to prayer, and I have found that the Lord's Prayer makes a good outline. Here's how I do it:
 
I address God as my Father by adoption through the grace of Jesus Christ and give thanks for His salvation. 
I pledge to keep His name holy in all my conduct. I remind Him of ways I have done this in the past, and ask Him forgiveness for all the ways I have failed to do so as well.
 I ask that His will be done, here on earth through me, as efficiently as it is done by His angels in heaven. I give examples of how I think I could do that; I ask His guidance and pledge my obedience. 
I ask for my material needs for the day, itemizing and discussing them. I give thanks for specific instances of His providence in the past.
I ask forgiveness, but only to the degree I am willing to forgive others. If I have a problem, I discuss it in detail. 
If I am facing any particular temptations, I discuss them and ask God to help me resist them. If I have recently survived any tough tests, I discuss them and thank God that He gave me the power to overcome them. 
I tell God about the evil things that frighten me, and ask Him to deliver me from them. I also give thanks for past rescues. 
You get the idea. When you pray like this, it's amazing how time flies!
 
Kenneth W. Collins, Praying
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I'm Sorry, Father 
A Catholic priest working in an inner city was walking down an alley one evening on his way home when a young man came down the alley behind him and poked a knife against his back. "Give me your money," the young man said.
 The priest opened his jacket and reached into an inner pocket to remove his wallet, exposing his clerical collar. "Oh, I'm sorry, Father," said the young man, "I didn't see your collar. I don't want YOUR money." 
Trembling from the scare, the priest removed a cigar from his shirt pocket and offered it to the young man. "Here," he said. "Have a cigar." 
"Oh, no, I can't do that," the young man replied, "I gave them up for Lent." 
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 Let Us Play 
My dear friends, let us play. Yes, you heard me correctly. Now is a time for play. In fact, today the church begins that time of the year when we do our most serious playing.
And playing is a serious business, you know. Ask any teacher of children. Better still, watch children at play. No wonder they are tired at the end of the day. They work hard at playing. They take it seriously.

Play is the child's laboratory for learning about life. Children who have never played at being grown-up tend to be handicapped in some way when they have to confront the actual experience. Boys who have never been allowed to play with dolls can hardly be expected to hold their own infants with ease and loving confidence. It has to be a later learning if it is ever learned at all. Play may be a more valuable tool for learning than all the educational resources manufactured by the professionals.
That is why, on this Ash Wednesday, the church summons us to a season of play. Our Lord has told us, if we are to enter the kingdom of heaven, we must become as little children. And one of childhood's most important occupations is play.
Am I wrong in my impression, however, that most of us do not come to church to play, that play is the furthest thing from our minds? Play seems foreign to our understanding of religion, and if it is to be found in church at all, it is best restricted to the nursery and the carefully supervised activities of the youth groups. H.L. Mencken defined a puritan as a person with the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, might be happy. I know the puritan still comes to church with me from time to time. What about you?
 
Kendall K. McCabe and Michael L. Sherer
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 Recharging Your Batteries 
An Italian newspaper recently carried a story about a young couple in Milan who seemed particularly devoted in their worship. The priest at a cathedral there reported that the pair spent an hour or more on a regular basis sitting before a statue of the Virgin Mary. Naturally, he assumed they were praying.

Turns out, this young couple was recharging their cell phone. They had noticed a stray electric cable sticking out of the wall behind the statue of the Virgin Mary. Whenever their phone's power supply dwindled, the young couple came to the church and re-charged it from the cable behind the Virgin Mary. The priest states that the young couple is welcome to use his church for this purpose.

We talk about coming to church to "re-charge our batteries," but this is ridiculous. What looked to the unobservant eye like an act of piety was actually a self-serving ploy to save money. This young couple was using the church for their own needs. And we're shocked, shocked, I tell you--until we realize that we may be guilty of the same mistake.
 
King Duncan 
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A Walking Children's Sermon
 The Rev. Timothy J. Kennedy tells a wonderful true story that is perfect for Ash Wednesday. It was told to him by a colleague, Pastor Chris Mietlowski. It concerned a baptism that Mietlowski once performed on an infant named Eric. Mietlowski took Eric in his arms and traced the cross of Christ on Eric's forehead using a special anointing oil.  
Following worship, Eric's family celebrated with a big backyard party. Family and friends ate burgers and chips and played volleyball under a summer sun. Eric, being only six months old, was left to nap in his backyard stroller. When Mom got him up, whoops. Basted on Eric's forehead was the image of the cross. Mom had forgotten to wash Eric's face following his baptism, and the oil that the pastor had traced onto his forehead acted the opposite of a sun screen. The Cross of Christ was imprinted on Eric's forehead. "For several weeks until it completely disappeared," says Rev. Kennedy, "that cross was a wonderful reminder as to the meaning of Baptism and a reminder that the Cross of Jesus was 'written' upon Eric's forehead."
 
And what a powerful witness it was, says Rev. Kennedy. "Eric's Mom and Dad had to explain the cross to the pediatrician, to the neighbors, to the stranger in the grocery store. For a few weeks, Eric was nothing less than a [living] children's sermon. It was only a bit of a sunburn to be sure, but [it was] the best basting a child can have to be marked with the cross of Christ! And why not? That cross is to be the foundation of that child's life."
 If I read the little book of Joel right, God's desire is not that we wear a cross on our forehead, but that it be basted on our hearts. "Rend your heart and not your garments," says Joel 2:23. That's much harder to do, isn't it? It's much easier to rend your clothes than to rend your heart. It's much easier to wear a cross around your neck than it is to bear it daily in everything you do.  
Timothy J. Kennedy
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 "Some Christians jump all over the room;
Others are as solemn and quiet as a tomb.
Some lift their hands high in the air,
But others wouldn't, even on a dare.
Christians are different in style and in song;
But if they are humble, to Christ they belong."
 
Traditional
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 Pancake Day  
Every once in a while a whimsical story makes the news. Some years ago, the Associated Press carried a story about a woman in Olney, England, named Dawn Gallyot who defied snow and a biting wind to beat seven other women to the finish line in the annual Shrove Tuesday pancake race. In her first race, the 38-year-old schoolteacher made the 415-yard dash from a pub in the market square to the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul with a pancake and a frying pan in her hand in 73 seconds. That was 9.5 seconds slower than the previous year's pace. Each woman must flip a pancake in the frying pan at the start and at the finish of the race. The record is 58 seconds. Mrs. Gallyot reportedly wore a traditional headscarf and apron, but opted for modern running shoes. 
Shrove Tuesday, known in England as Pancake Day, is traditionally the last day for merrymaking before the start of Lent. Pancakes are thought to be a good way to get in the eggs and fat that faithful church people were supposed to give up for Lent. Legend has it that the Olney race started in 1445 when a housewife, dashing to get to church on time, arrived at the service clutching in her hand a frying pan with a pancake still in it.
 The pancake race is but one of many traditions that have grown up around the season of Lent. New Orleans' Mardi Gras is another - one last blowout before a season of denial...
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Michel de Verteuil
 We are sorry that Fr Michel de Verteuil’s book does not carry a commentary for Ash Wednesday
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Kenneth Payne
What shall I say?

Theme: Lent – spring – is a time of spiritual growth through prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
Liturgical Text: ‘As we begin the discipline of Lent, make this sea­son holy by our self-denial.’ (Opening Prayer)
Homily Notes:
1. No age lives a more unbalanced lifestyle than our own. There are days when people have no fresh air, no exercise, no leisure, and they think no time for prayer.
2. Jesus instructs us that when we pray, fast or give alms we should do so privately.
3. Prayer: give more time to it – alone, with the family or a small group, going to Mass (weekdays), prayer before meals, walk instead of using the car and pray whilst walking, etc. Fasting: food, drink, eating less, giving up some favourite food or drink, TV, glossy magazines, etc.
Almsgiving: this can be linked with the money saved by some form of fasting and given to those in need – CAFOD, MoPSA,etc.

4. We are beginning an exciting time when the Lord challenges us to live more fully and be renewed in every way.
Story/Quote:
A. The sannyasi had reached the outskirts of the village and set­tled down under a tree for the night when a villager came running up to him and said, ‘The stone! The stone! Give me the precious stone!’
‘What stone?’ asked the sannyasi.
‘Last night the Lord Shiva appeared to me in a dream,’ said the villager, ‘and told me that if I went to the outskirts of the village at dusk I should find a sannyasi who would give me a precious stone that would make me rich forever.’
The sannyasi rummaged in his bag and pulled out a stone. ‘He probably meant this one,’ he said, as he handed the stone over to the villager. ‘1 found it on a forest path some days ago. You can certainly have it.’
The man looked at the stone in wonder. It was a diamond, probably the largest diamond in the whole world for it was as large as a man’s head.
He took the diamond and walked away. All night he tossed about in bed, unable to sleep. Next day at the crack of dawn he woke the sannyasi and said, ‘Give me the wealth that makes it possible for you to give this diamond away so easily.’
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Thomas O’Loughlin,
Homily notes
1. If the liturgy conveys the basic message of today (i.e. that we (1) as a community (2) begin today a season/ period in which we undertake (3) a journey and process of renewal that (4) makes us more fully the Body of Christ and (5) leads others to the moment of baptism, then a homily need only be a word or two in length while the ashes are being made by burning last year’s palms.
2. To see this season as a gift/ opportunity is very difficult for us as we are still burdened with half-remembered images of long ago when dancing, weddings, and eggs and lard were forbidden. Penitence which is just an attempt ‘to make up’ for sins by voluntary sufferings so as to avoid penalties post mortem has the effect of placing God’s justice and human retributive justice on the same plane – and thus denying the graciousness of God as seen in Christ’s reconciliation. So the task is to present Lent as the time for rebuilding bonds, becoming joined back to God and neighbour, for overcoming strife and working for peace and justice, and renewing ‘the bonds of peace’ (cf Eph 4:3) and love.
3. Renewing ourselves as the people chosen as God’s own, recovering the image of Christ soiled by sin, rebuilding the links with those we have injured and scandalised is not something that can happen in a moment: it requires time, patience, effort, and the commitment of resources. This is why we have a season and not just some quick ceremony: reconciliation is always a longer process than the impression given in our rites of reconciliation, whether individual or col­lective. The resources needed may be emotional – speaking again to someone who has offended us or crossing bound­aries that keep us apart in warring tribes; political- advocat­ing policies based on the fact that we believe Christ has com­missioned us to minister reconciliation to the world; spiritual-time needed to serve the community, to pray, or to grow in understanding of Christ’s way through taking part in a ‘Lenten Group’; and financial- using our material resources to help build the kingdom of justice, love, and peace.
4. We are involved in two solidarities: in that of sin that disfigures the world and the image of God in each of us; and in the community of grace through baptism. Lent is the time when we re-align ourselves and seek to oppose sin in every sphere with love.
 
 
 
Ash Wed
Gospel:Mt 6:6
When you pray, go to a secret place, close your door and
pray to your Father in secret

Step by Step(This is a morning and/or evening exercise)

Like Jesus,Jesus prayed
Go to a quiet place
Close the door quietly.
Turn off your mobile, radio, andTV.
Light a candle (- if it is safe to do so)
Try clearing and calming your mind.
Breathe in and out consciously for a few moments.
Focus on  God, Abba, our Father .

(God is already there and just waiting for you.)

Reflection for the Day
It’s good to go to a space apart —
a room for prayer, a few days holiday,
a time where we can take time out. Lent is what Lent means.
It’s a time to refresh the body, mind and spirit,
in prayer,
in some fasting maybe,
and in the type of love that shares with others, – especially the poor.

Fasting and almsgiving. are ways of taking us
inside ourselves to be renewed, outside ourselves to love others.

The real test of Christian life, prayer and fasting is how we live our lives in the everyday.
Cn TreasuresThe test of Lent in the end is not what have we done for Lent, but what Lent has done, through us, for others .
It is a sacred space to get in touch with Jesus, the God/man who lived, died and rose again
for others .
Today we remember that we come from the dust of the earth but are destined heaven


A LENTEN POEM
The Cross
A tree was planted on a height
It had two branches bare
The rock was barren and full of bones
– a site for death

Yet that same tree did blossom straight
And bore a fruit beyond all telling
Whose leaves forever spring freshly green
For its fair flower is God

                                   Honor G Mc Cabe O.P.
Prayer for the Week
Good and gracious God,
enlighten the secret places of my mind,
embrace the secret places of my desires,
enlarge the secret places of my love,
so that I walk in your light,
act out of your desires
and live in your love. Amen.
*****************************************************************Catholic Ireland.net would like to thank
Fr Donal Neary, S.J and Sr Honor Mc Cabe O.P.
***********************************************
 
 
From Sermons.com:
Nowadays the cost of a dinner and a movie keeps going up, and a vacation can be especially expensive, but if I really want to go somewhere I just take the change out of my pocket and lay it on the desk. It's like a time machine. Each coin has a year stamped on it, and just thinking about the year helps me travel back in my memory.
1979 is the year my first son was born and the year I started in ministry. 1981 and 1983 are the years my daughter and second son were born. 1988 is the last time the Dodgers won the pennant. 1990 was when I moved to Indiana from Los Angeles. 1994 and 2004 were the years I turned forty and fifty. 2002 was when I moved to Pennsylvania. And it's getting harder to find, but any coin with 1954 is my birth year.
I enjoy laying out the change in my pocket and just glancing at the dates. It's nice to carry these little reminders of important events, good and bad. But they're just one kind of reminder. We carry all sorts of reminders around. One of the most obvious is our date book, which we use to remind us of important events that are not in the past but in the future. We especially need a reminder for Ash Wednesday. It comes in the middle of nowhere. It's not like Christ­mas or Independence Day that fall on the same dates every year. Ash Wednesday is all over the map, from early February to some­time in March. What usually happens is that we notice someone with a smudge on their forehead and suddenly realize: was that today? Really, it's not very convenient. The least Ash Wednesday could do is fall on a Sunday. 
It is an interruption. And it's an unwelcome reminder of an unpleasant fact. Dust we are and to dust we shall return. The grass withers and the flower fades....
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A story appeared on Facebook recently about a person who went to a concert. At the end of the concert, this person noticed two ushers standing near his seat who were applauding harder than anybody else in the whole place. 
The man said he was thrilled with this particular concert because of the talent and virtuosity of the musicians. It also impressed him greatly to see these two ushers standing there applauding more vigorously than all of the concert goers. His experience was somewhat diminished, however, when he heard one usher say to the other, "Keep clapping. If we can get them to do another encore, we get overtime!"
I thought about these ushers when I read our lesson for today from the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus says, "Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
"So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
"When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." 
What can we conclude from Christ's words? One thing is obvious--Jesus didn't like hypocrites. He didn't like people who put on a show of religiosity, even if they do it under the guise of doing good. Nobody likes a person who preaches one thing and practices something else...
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The Lord's Prayer: A Walking Prayer
Every evening I walk three miles as part of my losing campaign against high blood pressure and my imperialistic waist line. I generally don't wear an iPod, because I prefer to take my exercise without anesthesia. (I enjoy the sounds of nature, and I want to be able to hear the cars honk before they run me over.) Sometimes I devote the time to prayer, and I have found that the Lord's Prayer makes a good outline. Here's how I do it:
I address God as my Father by adoption through the grace of Jesus Christ and give thanks for His salvation. 
I pledge to keep His name holy in all my conduct. I remind Him of ways I have done this in the past, and ask Him forgiveness for all the ways I have failed to do so as well.
I ask that His will be done, here on earth through me, as efficiently as it is done by His angels in heaven. I give examples of how I think I could do that; I ask His guidance and pledge my obedience.
I ask for my material needs for the day, itemizing and discussing them. I give thanks for specific instances of His providence in the past.
I ask forgiveness, but only to the degree I am willing to forgive others. If I have a problem, I discuss it in detail.
If I am facing any particular temptations, I discuss them and ask God to help me resist them. If I have recently survived any tough tests, I discuss them and thank God that He gave me the power to overcome them. 
I tell God about the evil things that frighten me, and ask Him to deliver me from them. I also give thanks for past rescues. 
You get the idea. When you pray like this, it's amazing how time flies!
 
Kenneth W. Collins, Praying
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"And When You Pray"
Jesus taught his disciples, saying: And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever 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. (Matthew 6:5-6)
Prayer -- just the word elicits a wide variety of responses and feelings. Everything from the most pious of responses to the most piteous of excuses, the concept and practice of prayer has evoked much writing and discussion in Christian circles down through the ages. Most of us would profess fairly easily that we believe prayer is important. Most of us would have to confess, perhaps not so easily, that we do not pray as we should.
As we begin our Lenten pilgrimage this day, let us begin with prayer. And I mean that both literally and figuratively. Let us begin where Jesus always seemed to begin every venture and effort, with prayer. It is one of the Lenten disciplines espoused by the religious for years. But it is more than just a discipline. So let us take some time, as we begin our Lent, to explore what prayer is, or is not. 
Part of the problem, I suspect, about our failure to pray more frequently is our feeling uncomfortable in prayer. We don't seem to know "how to" pray. 
And because we get all hung up in the "how to" part, feeling inadequate for the task, embarrassed by the act, unable to address God as we feel we should, many of us simply don't. We don't pray. 
Well, let's lay to rest the "how to" part right away. I found a wonderful poem that will help us put that issue into its right perspective. Listen to "Cyrus Brown's Prayer" by Sam Walter Foss:
"The proper way for man to pray,"
Said Deacon Lemuel Keyes,
"And the only proper attitude,
Is down upon his knees."
 "No, I should say the way to pray,"
Said Reverend Dr. Wise,
"Is standing straight with outstretched arms, And rapt and upturned eyes."
"Oh, no, no, no!" said Elder Slow,
"Such posture is too proud;
A man should pray with eyes fast closed, And head contritely bowed."
 "It seems to me his hands should be
Austerely clasped in front.
With both thumbs pointing toward the ground,"
Said Reverend Dr. Blunt. 
"Las' year I fell in Hodgkin's well
Head first," said Cyrus Brown.
"With both my heels a-stickin' up,
My head a-pointin' down;
"An' I made a prayer right then an' there... 
Glenn E. Ludwig, Walking To...Walking With...Walking Through, CSS Publishing Company
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Looking with Magic Eyes 
In 1983 Mehmet Ali Agca was in the midst of the crowd in St. Peter's Square. He pulled a gun out of his pocket and tried to assassinate Pope John Paul II. He was arrested and imprisoned. In January 1984 the Pope visited the prison, and when he walked through the cell door, he said to the young man, "I forgive you."
The papers in the city of Rome made much of it, but one editorial writer made a significant statement. "Of course the Pope forgives the man who tried to kill him. After all, he is the Pope, and forgiveness is his business." 
Strangely enough, what he said about the Pope is true about us. Forgiveness is the business of every Christian. But forgiveness is scarce in our culture, although it is terribly needed. We bury the hatchet with people, but then we keep a road map of exactly where we buried it. We put our resentments in cold storage, but we're ready to let them thaw out again whenever we need them. We take grudges down to the lake to drown them, but we remember the location in the water so we can find them again. We take the cancelled note, tear it up and say, "They don't owe us anything anymore," but we hang onto the wastebasket. We talk about forgiveness more than we forgive.
William L. Self, Magic Eyes
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Let Us Play
 
My dear friends, let us play. Yes, you heard me correctly. Now is a time for play. In fact, today the church begins that time of the year when we do our most serious playing.

And playing is a serious business, you know. Ask any teacher of children. Better still, watch children at play. No wonder they are tired at the end of the day. They work hard at playing. They take it seriously.

Play is the child's laboratory for learning about life. Children who have never played at being grown-up tend to be handicapped in some way when they have to confront the actual experience. Boys who have never been allowed to play with dolls can hardly be expected to hold their own infants with ease and loving confidence. It has to be a later learning if it is ever learned at all. Play may be a more valuable tool for learning than all the educational resources manufactured by the professionals.

That is why, on this Ash Wednesday, the church summons us to a season of play. Our Lord has told us, if we are to enter the kingdom of heaven, we must become as little children. And one of childhood's most important occupations is play.

Am I wrong in my impression, however, that most of us do not come to church to play, that play is the furthest thing from our minds? Play seems foreign to our understanding of religion, and if it is to be found in church at all, it is best restricted to the nursery and the carefully supervised activities of the youth groups. H.L. Mencken defined a puritan as a person with the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, might be happy. I know the puritan still comes to church with me from time to time. What about you?
Kendall K. McCabe and Michael L. Sherer, CSS Publishing Company
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Recharging Your Batteries 
An Italian newspaper recently carried a story about a young couple in Milan who seemed particularly devoted in their worship. The priest at a cathedral there reported that the pair spent an hour or more on a regular basis sitting before a statue of the Virgin Mary. Naturally, he assumed they were praying.

Turns out, this young couple was recharging their cell phone. They had noticed a stray electric cable sticking out of the wall behind the statue of the Virgin Mary. Whenever their phone's power supply dwindled, the young couple came to the church and re-charged it from the cable behind the Virgin Mary. The priest states that the young couple is welcome to use his church for this purpose.

We talk about coming to church to "re-charge our batteries," but this is ridiculous. What looked to the unobservant eye like an act of piety was actually a self-serving ploy to save money. This young couple was using the church for their own needs. And we're shocked, shocked, I tell you--until we realize that we may be guilty of the same mistake.
 
King Duncan, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com 
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A Walking Children's Sermon 
The Rev. Timothy J. Kennedy tells a wonderful true story that is perfect for Ash Wednesday. It was told to him by a colleague, Pastor Chris Mietlowski. It concerned a baptism that Mietlowski once performed on an infant named Eric. Mietlowski took Eric in his arms and traced the cross of Christ on Eric's forehead using a special anointing oil.  
Following worship, Eric's family celebrated with a big backyard party. Family and friends ate burgers and chips and played volleyball under a summer sun. Eric, being only six months old, was left to nap in his backyard stroller. When Mom got him up, whoops. Basted on Eric's forehead was the image of the cross. Mom had forgotten to wash Eric's face following his baptism, and the oil that the pastor had traced onto his forehead acted the opposite of a sun screen. The Cross of Christ was imprinted on Eric's forehead. "For several weeks until it completely disappeared," says Rev. Kennedy, "that cross was a wonderful reminder as to the meaning of Baptism and a reminder that the Cross of Jesus was 'written' upon Eric's forehead."
And what a powerful witness it was, says Rev. Kennedy. "Eric's Mom and Dad had to explain the cross to the pediatrician, to the neighbors, to the stranger in the grocery store. For a few weeks, Eric was nothing less than a [living] children's sermon. It was only a bit of a sunburn to be sure, but [it was] the best basting a child can have to be marked with the cross of Christ! And why not? That cross is to be the foundation of that child's life."
If I read the little book of Joel right, God's desire is not that we wear a cross on our forehead, but that it be basted on our hearts. "Rend your heart and not your garments," says Joel 2:23. That's much harder to do, isn't it? It's much easier to rend your clothes than to rend your heart. It's much easier to wear a cross around your neck than it is to bear it daily in everything you do.  
Timothy J. Kennedy, adapted by King Duncan
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"Some Christians jump all over the room;
Others are as solemn and quiet as a tomb.
Some lift their hands high in the air,
But others wouldn't, even on a dare.
Christians are different in style and in song;
But if they are humble, to Christ they belong."
 
Traditional
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Pancake Day  
Every once in a while a whimsical story makes the news. A couple of years ago, the Associated Press carried a story about a woman in Olney, England, named Dawn Gallyot who defied snow and a biting wind to beat seven other women to the finish line in the annual Shrove Tuesday pancake race. In her first race, the 38-year-old schoolteacher made the 415-yard dash from a pub in the market square to the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul with a pancake and a frying pan in her hand in 73 seconds. That was 9.5 seconds slower than the previous year's pace. Each woman must flip a pancake in the frying pan at the start and at the finish of the race. The record is 58 seconds. Mrs. Gallyot reportedly wore a traditional headscarf and apron, but opted for modern running shoes. 
Shrove Tuesday, known in England as Pancake Day, is traditionally the last day for merrymaking before the start of Lent. Pancakes are thought to be a good way to get in the eggs and fat that faithful church people were supposed to give up for Lent. Legend has it that the Olney race started in 1445 when a housewife, dashing to get to church on time, arrived at the service clutching in her hand a frying pan with a pancake still in it.
The pancake race is but one of many traditions that have grown up around the season of Lent. New Orleans' Mardi Gras is another - one last blowout before a season of denial. Throughout the years, Lent has become associated with fasting and denial. Even today many people talk about giving up something during Lent. Some stop eating meat. Some give up coffee. For others it's chocolate or desserts. And that's all well and good, but the real intent of Lent is that should we look within. We should change our hearts and not our diets.  
Lee Griess, Return to The Lord, Your God, CSS Publishing Company
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Ash Wednesday 
Ash Wednesday is the first day of the penitential season of Lent. Its true name is actually not "Ash Wednesday" but "The Day of Ashes." Whichever name is used, the reference to ashes comes from the ceremony of placing ashes on the forehead in the shape of the cross as a sign of penitence. This custom was introduced by Pope Gregory I, who was Bishop of Rome from to 590 A.D. to 604 A.D. It was enacted as a universal practice in all of Western Christendom by the Synod of Benevento in 1091 A.D.
*****
From Fr. Jude Botelho:

 The first reading from the prophet Joel reminds us that God invited the people of Israel to come back to Him through the great disasters that befell them. The disaster that befell the Israelites at that time was the invasion of locusts that came in large numbers from the desert and devoured everything. The people were devastated and the prophet Joel called them to prayer and to penance. He reminded them that everyone should do penance, they needed to ask God’s pardon as a family, as one community and God would forgive them all. We too are invited as individuals and as a community to repent and humbly acknowledge our sinfulness.

The Nail Post
A father wanted his son to really understand the importance of making right choices, of doing what’s right. So if his son made a bad choice, he’d give him a hammer and a nail to take out into the backyard and pound it into a fence post. Every day the son went through the whole day making good decisions, he’d let the boy go out and take out one of those nails. Until the boy was fifteen, there were always two or three nails in the post, -seemed he’d be nailing new ones as often as he’d pull out others. The youth started to mature and make better decisions and finally one day all the nails were removed from the post. That was when his dad took him to the back yard and said, “I want you to notice something about the post.” The son looked at the post for a moment and realized that all the nails that once were driven in and then later removed had left small holes in the post. His dad said, “I want to tell you something, about bad decisions. Even though you may be totally forgiven from your bad choices or decisions, and there are no nails visible, there are the remaining effects, the consequences, of those choices or decisions; just like the holes in that fence-post.” –Our sins may be forgiven but are the effects of sin still with us?
Author Unknown

The Gospel of today speaks to us of three paths that can lead us back to God: prayer, fasting and alms. However Jesus reminds us that these three practices by themselves will not lead us to God unless we perform them with a humble heart. Lent is firstly a time for renewing our prayer life. But when we pray, do not pray to be seen or heard by others? We are reminded in today’s gospel. “But when you pray, go to your private room and when you have shut the door, pray to your Father, in secret.” What Jesus is speaking about is the motive of our prayer practices. Our common prayer should be done with humility, sincerity and with love. Our community prayer life needs to be balanced with private and personal prayer. The second practice recommended is fasting and abstinence during lent, and again we are reminded that how we do it is more important than what we do. The heart of fasting is to do without something that we like, or something we think we can’t do without, in order to realize that God can supply our every need. We may observe the letter of the law but have we missed out on its spirit? What about a weekly fast from our favourite TV serial? The third practice of the devout Jew was almsgiving. Again the admonition is the same: “So when you give alms do not have it trumpeted before you to win men’s admiration. Your left hand must not know what your right hand is doing,” Alms giving is any kind of help, material or spiritual, we give to our neighbour. Instead of mere material almsgiving, we could give them good advice or encouragement, we can appreciate the goodness in others, we can help someone in spiritual danger, we can encourage people to attend to their spiritual needs. Perhaps, the help that people need is more spiritual than material. Are we bringing people to Jesus by our words, our good example and our deeds?

Find someone in need
Dr. Karl Menninger, the famous psychiatrist, once gave a lecture on mental health, and then answered questions from the audience. “What would you advise a person to do,” asked one man, “if that person felt a nervous breakdown was coming on?” Most people expected him to reply, “Consult a psychiatrist.” To their disappointment he replied, “Lock your house, go across the railway tracks, find someone in need and do something to help that person.” –Don’t sit and pout. Get up and do something for others!
Brian Cavanaugh in ‘The Sower’s Seed’

Ready to change?
Once, a king was walking through the streets of the city when he came upon a beggar who immediately asked him for money. The king did not give him any money. Instead he invited him to his palace. The beggar took up the king’s offer. On the appointed day he made his way to the royal palace, and was duly ushered into the king’s presence. However as he came into the king’s presence he was acutely conscious of his rags and felt ashamed of them. They were an eloquent symbol of the wretchedness of his life. The king, an exceptionally kind man, received him warmly, took pity on him, and among other things gave him a new set of clothes. However, a few days later the beggar was back to begging on the streets, dressed in his old rags. Why did he give up the new suit? Because he knew that to wear it would mean that he would have to live a new life. It would mean giving up the life of a beggar. This he was not prepared to do. It wasn’t that the new life did not appeal to him. It did. It was just that a change of life would be slow, painful and uncertain. In other words he was too much steeped in habit to change.
Flor McCarthy in ‘New Sunday and Holy day Liturgies’

Renewal
Once, long ago, a musician well-known for the beauty and sweetness of his songs was asked to play for the royal audience. The king was so pleased with the performance that he made the musician part of the royal court. His highness loved one particular song so much that he had the musician play it over and over, several times a day. It went well for the musician, who had everything he needed, fame and prestige as well. After a time the musician grew weary of repeating the melody and no longer played with the same zest and passion as he once did. This disturbed the king, because his favorite song now lacked much of its original vibrancy. So in order to re-kindle the musician’s interest in the song, the king ordered someone, who had never heard the song before, to be brought to the palace everyday. When the musician saw the new person he was inspired and he played with new vigour. But the king was getting tired of finding a new person everyday and so he consulted his advisors who suggested that the musician should be blinded! The musician was drugged into sleep and his eyes put out so he never knew what had happened, and he never saw a human form again. From that time on the blind musician would sit continually before the king. Whenever the king wanted to hear his favorite melody, he would say. “O musician, here comes someone new, a person who has never heard you play before.” And the musician would play his song with the utmost skill and spiritedness, as if for the first time. -What is the meaning of this parable? It is left to you to determine! For in the words of an Eastern sage: “When you go to the market to buy fruit from the green grocer, you do not ask him to chew it for you!”
Anonymous

Minor Irritants of life
A young man had just hiked across a long, barren stretch of land. Reporters asked what he found hardest about it. “Was it the loneliness of the hike?” “No,” he replied. “Was it the hot sun beating down on you?” “No”, he replied. “Was it the dangerous nights by the roadside?” “No”, he replied. “Well then, what was it?” “The sand in my shoes,” he said. -That is often the case in everyday life. It is not the big things that get us down, more often, it’s the tiny irritations! May be, accepting the tiny irritations with family, friends, colleagues, office workers, that come our way each day, could be a good way to start our lent!
Anonymous

Making the right choice!
Some friends who went deer-hunting separated into pairs for the day. That night one hunter returned alone, staggering under the weight of a big deer. “Where’s Harry?” asked another hunter. “Oh, he fainted a couple of miles up the trail,” Harry’s partner answered. “And you left him lying there all alone and carried the deer back?” “A tough call,” said the hunter, “but I figured no one’s going to steal Harry.” Which is more valuable, Harry or the deer? –Let us discern and choose the right path and course of action at the right time. What are we going to do and what are we going to give up for Lent?
John Pichappilly in ‘The Table of the Word’

‘What’s wrong with me’?
A man went to a doctor with a very real worry. He explained to the doctor that every part of himself that he touched was very sore, and he was worried. If he touched his nose, his knee, his elbow, all parts were very sensitive to touch, and were quite painful. The doctor gave him a full physical check-up, and when he was finished, the man asked the doctor if he had discovered what was wrong with him. “Yes,” said the doctor, “I have. Your finger is broken.” Once the man knew what was wrong with him, and got that attended to, he was delighted that the other parts were no longer painful. -It is absolutely necessary for me to realize ‘what’s wrong with me’. Otherwise I will be preoccupied with that, and can only get worse. Perhaps, Lent is a good time to find out ‘What’s wrong with me’?
Jack McArdle in ‘Twelve Simple Steps’