Wednesday, 13 February 2013 : Ash Wednesday (Scripture Reflection)

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, today we enter into the season of Lent, the season for repentance, and season for the blossoming of new hope and faith in God. For in this 40 days season of Lent, we have a great chance to bring ourselves ever closer to God, and to make ourselves ready to welcome God into our hearts, as we approach the most important liturgical season of the year, that is the Holy Week.

Today we receive the ashes, that is none other than the ashes produced by the burning of the palms from the previous year’s blessed palms of the Palm Sunday. These ashes which the priest will place on our foreheads are the reminder of our mortality and our fragility. It serves as a reminder for us, that we are human, and that we are limited, and ultimately, we are nothing before God, and our lives are just but a fleeting moment.

We have to prepare ourselves this Lent, and nothing better than to begin with humility, to humbly ask God for forgiveness. By the imposition of ashes, we show that we are ready to lower ourselves before God, most merciful and most loving.

These ashes may symbolise that we are nothing and that all we have are temporary, but even from the ashes, we can rise again to be great. Our sinful way of life and this world is just temporary, and therefore, let us do our best, not to be trapped, not to be ensnared by the false temptations and evils, and rather, let us make best use of our short and temporary existence in this world.

Let us turn our hearts to God, and sincerely ask for His forgiveness for our constant rebellion against Him. For in our human weakness, the evil one had had many tools to subvert us and lured us into sin to serve his own purposes, that is most importantly to separate us for eternity from the loving embrace of God. Let us use this Lenten season to rebuke Satan as Christ did when He was tempted during His 40 days retreat in the desert. Let us say no to Satan and his malicious ways, and reject him in all that we do. Make this Lenten season a holy and meaningful season, dedicated in prayer to God.

Let us approach the Lord with great humility and a loving heart reserved for Him alone. This is why Christ rebuked those whose hypocrisy made them pray in a very visible way, that is to be seen by all the people around them, with example being the Pharisees at that time. It is actually fine to show one’s great holiness, and indeed, one’s great faith and holiness, when shown, may deliver many to redemption too.

However, there is no prayer best than when we are alone with Him. To me, the best prayers are made, whenever I am in an empty shower in an empty bathroom, in my own room without anyone else, where, I can truly listen to the Lord speaking to me, and also to be able then to also speak to the Lord without restraint. Since, when we are alone with Him, we are truly open to Him, just as He is open to us. When someone is around us, less so a crowd, vanity, pride, and other sins will unavoidably arise in our hearts, and our focus will eventually be not entirely at the Lord anymore. No, indeed, if we allow our vanity and pride to grow great, we may end up focusing on ourselves, our own achievements by being ‘holy’ and ‘looked up to’ by the people.

Thus, today, let us, brothers and sisters in Christ, prepare ourselves for the Lord, make the best use out of this Lenten season. Do penance and repent sincerely, and the Lord will see our hearts and found them to be worthy. Let us step up our efforts in prayer and in our mission, in our work for the good of all around us, especially in this holy, Lenten season. Happy Lent everyone! Amen.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013 : Ash Wednesday (Gospel Reading)

Mark 6 : 1-6, 16-18

Be careful not to make a show of your righteousness before people. If you do so, you do not gain anything from your Father in heaven. When you give something to the poor, do not have it trumpeted before you, as do those who want to be seen in the synagogues and in the streets, in order to be praised by the people. I assure you, they have already been paid in full.

If you give something to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your gift remains really secret. Your Father, who sees what is kept secret, will reward you.

When you pray, do not be like those who want to be seen. They love to stand and pray in the synagogues or on street corners to be seen by everyone. I assure you, they have already been paid in full. When you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father who is with you in secret; and your Father who sees what is kept secret will reward you.

When you fast, do not put on a miserable face as do the hypocrites. They put on a gloomy face, so that people can see that they are fasting. I tell you this : they have been paid in full already. When you fast, wash your face and make yourself look cheerful, because you are not fasting for appearances or for people, but for your Father who sees beyond appearances. And your Father, who sees what is kept secret, will reward you.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013 : Ash Wednesday (Second Reading)

2 Corinthians 5 : 20 – 2 Corinthians 6 : 2

So we present ourselves as ambassadors in the name of Christ, as if God Himself makes an appeal to you through us. Let God reconcile you; this we ask you in the name of Christ. He had no sin, but God made Him bear our sin, so that in Him we might share the holiness of God.

Being God’s helpers we beg you : let it not be in vain that you received this grace of God. Scripture says : “At the favourable time I listened to you, on the day of salvation I helped you. This is the favourable time, this is the day of salvation.”

Wednesday, 13 February 2013 : Ash Wednesday (Psalm)

Psalm 50 : 3-4, 5-6a, 12-13, 14 and 17

Have mercy on me, o God, in Your love. In Your great compassion blot out my sin. Wash me thoroughly of my guilt; cleanse me of evil.

For I acknowledge my wrongdoings and have my sins ever in mind. Against You alone have I sinned; what is evil in Your sight I have done.

Create in me, o God, a pure heart; give me a new and steadfast spirit. Do not cast me out of Your presence nor take Your Holy Spirit from me.

Give me again the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. O Lord, open my lips, and I will declare Your praise.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013 : Ash Wednesday (First Reading)

Joel 2 : 12-18

YHVH says, “Yet even now, return to Me with your whole heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Rend your heart, not your garment. Return to YHVH, your God – gracious and compassionate.”

YHVH is slow to anger, full of kindness, and He repents of having punished. Who knows? Probably He will relent once more and spare some part of the harvest from which we may bring sacred offerings to YHVH, your God.

Blow the trumpet in Zion, proclaim a sacred fast, call a solemn assembly. Gather the people, sanctify the community, bring together the elders, even the children and infants at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his bed, and the bride her room.

Between the vestibule and the altar, let the priests, YHVH’s ministers, weep and say : “Spare your people, YHVH. Do not humble them or make them an object of scorn among the nations. Why should it be said among the peoples : Where is their God?

YHVH has become jealous for His land; He has had pity on His people.

Ash Wednesday with Pope Benedict XVI : Maybe to be his last public Mass as our Pope

Tune in to Vatican Player at the site above for the Ash Wednesday celebration with the Pope from St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. It is scheduled to be on Wednesday, 13 February 2013, at 5.00 pm CET (Central European Time) or UTC+1

The timings in other regions :

UTC : Wednesday, 13 February 2013 at 4.00 pm

EST/UTC-5 : Wednesday, 13 February 2013 at 11.00 am

PST/UTC-8 : Wednesday, 13 February 2013 at 8.00 am

UTC+7 (West Indonesia and Thailand) : Wednesday, 13 February 2013 at 11.00 pm

UTC+8 (Singapore, Malaysia, HK, China) : Thursday, 14 February 2013 at 00.00 am

As this may well be the last large public Mass Pope Benedict XVI will be presiding in, let’s give him our support and pray with him, and participate together from all over the world in the Mass celebrated by our beloved Pope Benedict XVI!