Gospel Reflections

Feast of Ash Wednesday

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

Feast Day Reflection by Sister Bernadette Turgeon

Published: March 01, 2017


Ash Wednesday is a time of repentance and fasting for 40 days in preparation for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The ashes represent penance made sacramental by the blessing of the Church, and they help us develop a spirit of sacrifice. In today’s reading from Isaiah we are encouraged to reach out to others. “If you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom will be like the noonday.” Mother Teresa said:  "If I look at the masses I will never act. If I look at the one, I will."  

As I reflect on today’s readings, I realize there is much need in our world, our cities, our towns. Pope Francis reminded us of this when he came to the United States.

When I was a child, during Lent my brother, sister and I had a basket on top of the refrigerator and all the candy that we received was put there as a way of “giving up” for Lent. On Holy Saturday after noontime, we could eat our candy, because Lent was over. In today’s world we can still give up, but most often we are encouraged to give: perform acts of kindness, serve in a soup kitchen, visit the elderly, bring food to the food bank, donate clothing, etc. 

Last year in our Faith Formation Program, young people in our Junior High and High School youth ministry were encouraged to go through their rooms and closets and donate items they could do without. I am not sure who went through the closets, the child or the parent, but we received hundreds of pounds of gently used items to give to those in need. At Thanksgiving, our Catholic High School students brought food to the parish Food Bank. Our Junior High Students sorted through the donated food and filled Thanksgiving baskets for families that might not have a Thanksgiving meal. One young man thanked me for giving him this opportunity and suggested that next year we encourage the children to bring goodies for these baskets, not just the necessities. I know he was thinking of children who might not have goodies which he thought were so necessary at a Thanksgiving feast.

In Matthew’s Gospel, we are encouraged not to store up treasures for ourselves. There is so much need, not just material but needs of the homeless, the veterans, the elderly, the lonely. You might say to yourself, “What can I do?” Pope Francis encouraged us to look around our city or town and find out where the needs are. I work in a small parish.  It seems when there is a need somewhere, I get a call asking if I can collect calendars for the Veterans’ home, coats for children in need, clothes, toiletries, blankets, sleeping bags. All that I do is let people know and things come pouring into the parish. Last year in France, many people attending a concert died or were hurt by terrorists. In our parish, a 5 year old child asked his mother if there was something he could do.  He set up a lemonade stand outside the train station.  Not only did people buy his lemonade, but he collected hundreds of dollars to help with the effort for those who needed the help in France.

This winter there have been many natural disasters with fires, floods, tornados. We hear people say, “I have no insurance.” So often we see the Red Cross trucks setting up shelters and providing food. We can contribute easily to the Red Cross in our areas. I realize that what I am suggesting is only “a drop in the bucket” when we think of the big picture. But for those receiving that small drop, it may be everything! Now is the time for giving to in addition to giving up.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

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