Wednesday, March 01, 2017 Ash Wednesday Introduction
Lent begins with a solemn call to fasting and repentance as we begin our journey to the baptismal waters of Easter. As we hear in today’s readings, now is the acceptable time to return to the Lord. During Lent the people of God will reflect on the meaning of their baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection. The sign of ashes suggests our human mortality and frailty. What seems like an ending is really an invitation to make each day a new beginning, in which we are washed in God’s mercy and forgiveness. With the cross on our brow, we long for the spiritual renewal that flows from the springtime Easter feast to come.
First Reading: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17
Because of the coming Day of the Lord, the prophet Joel calls the people to a community lament. The repentant community reminds God of his gracious character and asks God to spare the people, lest the nations doubt God’s power to save.
Psalm: Psalm 51:1-17
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love. (Ps. 51:1)
Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:20b–6:10
The ministry of the gospel endures many challenges and hardships. Through this ministry, God’s reconciling activity in the death of Christ reaches into the depths of our lives to bring us into a right relationship with God. In this way, God accepts us into the reality of divine salvation.
Gospel: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus commends almsgiving, prayer, and fasting, but emphasizes that spiritual devotion must not be done for show.
Sunday, March 05, 2017 First Sunday in Lent Introduction
Today’s gospel tells of Jesus’ temptation in the desert. His forty-day fast becomes the basis of our Lenten pilgrimage. In the early church Lent was a time of intense preparation for those to be baptized at the Easter Vigil. This catechetical focus on the meaning of faith is at the heart of our Lenten journey to the baptismal waters of Easter. Hungry for God’s mercy, we receive the bread of life to nourish us for the days ahead.
First Reading: Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
Human beings were formed with great care, to be in relationship with the creator, creation, and one another. The serpent’s promise to the first couple that their eyes would be opened led, ironically, to the discovery only that they were naked.
Psalm: Psalm 32
Mercy embraces those who trust in the Lord. (Ps. 32:10)
Second Reading: Romans 5:12-19
Through Adam’s disobedience, humanity came under bondage to sin and death, from which we cannot free ourselves. In Christ’s obedient death, God graciously showers on us the free gift of liberation and life.
Gospel: Matthew 4:1-11
Jesus experiences anew the temptations that Israel faced in the wilderness. As the Son of God, he endures the testing of the evil one.