Today the Church celebrates : St Ethelbert of Kent
Book of Joel 2,12-18.
Yet even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God. For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment. Perhaps he will again relent and leave behind him a blessing, Offerings and libations for the LORD, your God. Blow the trumpet in Zion! proclaim a fast, call an assembly; Gather the people, notify the congregation; Assemble the elders, gather the children and the infants at the breast; Let the bridegroom quit his room, and the bride her chamber. Between the porch and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep, And say, "Spare, O LORD, your people, and make not your heritage a reproach, with the nations ruling over them! Why should they say among the peoples, 'Where is their God?'" Then the LORD was stirred to concern for his land and took pity on his people.
Have mercy on me, God, in your goodness; in your abundant compassion blot out my offense.
Wash away all my guilt; from my sin cleanse me.
For I know my offense; my sin is always before me.
Against you alone have I sinned; I have done such evil in your sight That you are just in your sentence, blameless when you condemn.
A clean heart create for me, God; renew in me a steadfast spirit.
Do not drive me from your presence, nor take from me your holy spirit.
Restore my joy in your salvation; sustain in me a willing spirit.
Lord, open my lips; my mouth will proclaim your praise.
Second Letter to the Corinthians 5,20-21.6,1-2.
So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. Working together, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says: "In an acceptable time I heard you, and on the day of salvation I helped you." Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 6,1-6.16-18.
(But) take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.
Commentary of the day :
Pope Benedict XVI
General Audience 06/02/08 (© copyright Libreria Editrice Vaticana)
In the primitive Church at the outset Lent was the privileged time for preparing catechumens to receive the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist, which were celebrated at the Easter Vigil. Lent was considered as the period in which to become a Christian which was not brought about in an instant but required a long journey of conversion and renewal. The baptized also joined in this preparation, reviving the memory of the Sacrament they had received with renewed communion with Christ, available to them at the joyful celebration of Easter. Thus, Lent had and still has today preserved the character of a baptismal process in the sense that it helps keep alive the awareness that being Christians is always achieved by becoming Christians over and over again: it is never a story that is over once and for all but rather a journey which requires us to start out constantly anew.
As he places the Ashes on the person's forehead the celebrant says "Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return" (cf. Gn 3: 19), or he repeats Jesus' exhortation "Repent, and believe in the Gospel" (cf. Mk 1: 15). Both formulas are a reminder of the truth about human life: we are limited creatures, sinners always in need of repentance and conversion. How important it is to listen to and accept this reminder in our time! When contemporary man proclaims his total autonomy from God, he enslaves himself and often finds himself in comfortless loneliness. The invitation to conversion, therefore, is an incentive to return to the embrace of God, the tender and merciful Father, to entrust oneself to him, to entrust oneself to him as adoptive sons, regenerated by his love... Therefore, to convert is to let oneself be won over by Jesus (cf. Phil 3: 12) and "to return" with him to the Father. Conversion thus entails placing oneself humbly at the school of Jesus and walking meekly in his footsteps.