First reading Joel 2:12-18

Let your hearts be broken, not your garments torn

‘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, 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.
 

Responsorial Psalm 50(51):3-6,12-14,17

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.
 
Have mercy on us, O Lord, for we have sinned.
 
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.
 
Have mercy on us, O Lord, for we have sinned.
 
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.
 
Have mercy on us, O Lord, for we have sinned.
 
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.
 
Have mercy on us, O Lord, for we have sinned.
 

Second reading 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2

Be reconciled to God

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 Matthew 6:1-6,16-18

Your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you

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.’
 
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A start to a fruitful Lent

Today, as we begin the liturgical season of Lent, let us take a moment to reflect on what Lent means. Jesus mentioned three important practices that we rightly need to practice in this time of Lent. However, Jesus also warned against giving alms, praying and fasting to draw attention to ourselves. Pope Francis preached the following, “Hypocrisy is the filth that Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel that we have to  remove. Indeed, the Lord tells us not only to carry out works of charity, to pray and to fast, but also to do these without pretense, duplicity  and hypocrisy (cf. Mt 6:2.5.16). Yet how often do we do things only to be recognised, to look good, to satisfy our ego! How often do we  profess to be Christians, yet in our hearts readily yield to passions that enslave us!
 
How often do we preach one thing and practice another!…” (Ash Wednesday Mass, 2020). Let us desire to have a fruitful Lent by placing  God as the priority in our lives and making Him the motivation behind our actions and words.
 
Question for reflection:
In this Lent, how can I strive to please God alone?
 
 
Acknowledgment: Reflections are based on “Prayer for Living: The Word of God for Daily Prayer Year C” by Sr Sandra Seow FMVD.