Wondering what Understanding the Gospel is? Check out the 1st post in the series for an explanation.
Ash Wednesday Edition!
If you would like to read the entire text of today’s readings you can find that here.
Today we are celebrating Ash Wednesday, the first day of the liturgical season of Lent. Lent is the season the Church gives us so that we can prepare ourselves to celebrate the highest point of the Liturgical year, Easter!
Each year, the readings for Ash Wednesday are the same. They call us to a change of heart (to make our hearts more like Christ) and teach us about the traditional Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. These disciplines are to be part of the Christian life during every season, but during the season of Lent, we renew our commitment to them.
The meaning behind tracing a cross on our foreheads with ashes (the liturgical sign of Ash Wednesday) is a summary of our Christian life. On one level, the ashes remind us of our origin and our death. That’s why when we receive our ashes, we hear the words: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” You might be wondering why you would want to be reminded of your death? Isn’t that something we don’t want to think about?! The Church asks us to “remember our death” so that we can remember how important is to have a relationship with Jesus and that this isn’t something we should put off for another day. It’s too important!
You may also notice that the ashes are made in the sign of the cross. The cross is a reminder that in his death and resurrection, Christ conquered death. Our destiny as Christians is to receive the victory over death that Christ won for us and that is what the cross of ashes reminds us of.
Today’s gospel reading is part of the Sermon on the Mount. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns us against acting for the sake of appearance. Sometimes it’s tempting to do nice things so that people will see and think that we are awesome. But Jesus tells us that when we give alms, pray, and fast, we are to do so in such a way that only God (who knows our real intentions and what is in our heart) will know.
Discussion Questions –
What can we do in each of the Lenten disciplines (prayer, fasting, almsgiving) to help us grow closer to Christ in the next 40 days?
A printable version of this post is available by clicking HERE.