ASH WEDNESDAY allows us to practice what Jesus taught as we observe this first day of Lent. We fast and receive God’s blessing with ashes on our foreheads to express our sorrow for offending Him. Today’s Gospel Reading invites us to do this with sincerity, asking our Father for forgiveness openly and honestly, but from the inner rooms of our hearts.
When Jesus taught His disciples how to fast, pray and practice good deeds in a manner most pleasing to our Father, He said they shouldn’t act like the hypocrites who made sure others saw them, so as to win their praise. The hypocrites received the praise they pined for, but that was it for them, Jesus warned, “They have received their reward.”
When the praise of man is our only incentive to do good, then the praise of man is all we’ll get. On the other hand, if our acts are done from the heart with the intent that only our Father see them, a most excellent reward comes to us, “and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” What we receive from delighting our Father is lasting. Our recompense begins immediately with His grace and continues on for eternity—what could be better?
Not everyone can distinguish sincerity, but our Heavenly Father sees everything. Let us humbly speak with faith to the One who knows of our hunger, hears our every prayer, sees our every deed, forgives us of everything and rewards us greatly.
If you have an Advent wreath, you’ll light the first of four candles today. If you don’t have one, you can watch the priest light it just before Holy Mass.
What did Mother Teresa say about Advent? Something beautiful.
“Advent is like Springtime in nature when everything is renewed, fresh and healthy. Advent refreshes us, makes us healthy and able to receive Christ in whatever form He may come to us. At Christmas He comes as a little child, small, helpless and in need of His mother and all that a mother’s love can give. His mother’s humility enabled her to serve. If we really want God to fill us, we must empty ourselves through humility of all the selfishness within us.”
Jesus always responds to prayers made in faith. The faith of the ten lepers brought them a miraculous cure, but the faith of one brought him back to the feet of Jesus, where he learned that his conviction had brought him something even greater – salvation, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.” (Luke 17:19)
All things are possible with God, but only in faith can we accept the mystery of His power the way the lone leper did when he returned to thank Jesus. One would expect such a reaction from a leper whose lesions suddenly disappeared, but it didn’t happen that way for the other nine. And it doesn’t always happen that way for us, even though the miracles in our own lives go beyond physical healings every day!
God has pity on us every time we ask, not just when His answer is visible like the lepers. Trusting in this is the miracle of faith, and in its fullness we find salvation.