Gospel Reflection – Wednesday, February 14, 2024-Matthew 6: 1-6: 16-18-Catholic Bible

First Reading (Jl 2:12-18)

Reading from the Prophecy of Joel:

“Now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, tears, and groaning; tear your heart, and not your garments; and return to the Lord, your God; for he is gracious and compassionate, patient and full of mercy, inclined to forgive punishment.”

Who knows if he will turn towards you and forgive you, and leave behind the blessing, offering, and libation for the Lord, your God? Blow the trumpet in Zion, prescribe the sacred fast, call the assembly; gather the people, perform worship ceremonies, gather the elders, gather the children and infants; let the husband leave his chamber, and the wife, her bed.

Let the sacred ministers of the Lord weep, placed between the vestibule and the altar, and say: “Forgive, Lord, your people, and do not let your inheritance suffer infamy and be dominated by nations.” Why should it be said among the peoples: “Where is their God?” Then the Lord was filled with zeal for his land and forgave his people.

– Word of the Lord.

– Thanks be to God.

Second Reading (2Cor 5,20-6,2)

Reading from the Second Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians:

Brothers and sisters: We are ambassadors for Christ, and it is God himself who exhorts through us. In the name of Christ, we implore you: be reconciled with God. He who did not commit any sin, God made him sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

6,As collaborators of Christ, we urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain, for he says: “At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

— The word of the Lord.

— Thanks be to God.

Gospel Reading (Mt 6,1-6.16-18)

— PROCLAMATION of the Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew.

— Glory to you, Lord.

At that time, Jesus said to his disciples: “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

— The Gospel of the Lord.

— Praise to you, Lord.

Reflecting the Word of God

Brothers and sisters, may the peace of the Lord be with you all. Today we gather in this community to reflect on the words of Sacred Scripture, which invite us to a profound inner transformation. As we look at today’s readings, we are called to examine our hearts and question the sincerity of our life of faith.

Imagine yourself walking down a bustling street in a large city. People are hurried, each focused on their own tasks and concerns. It’s a familiar scene for many of us. As we observe this hustle and bustle, perhaps we wonder: where is the space for the sacred amidst all this daily frenzy?

It is in this context that the words of the prophet Joel resonate deeply. He calls us to repentance, to a conversion of heart. “Return to me with all your heart,” says the Lord, “with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning” (Joel 2:12). This exhortation reminds us that the life of faith must be more than just an external facade. It is an invitation to truly turn towards God, abandoning the ways of selfishness and shallowness.

To illustrate this truth, allow me to tell you the story of a young man named John. John was an active member of the parish for many years. He attended Mass, donated his time and resources to charitable works, and was known by all as a good Christian. However, there was something missing within him. His heart was divided, and he felt empty inside.

One day, John came across the words of the apostle Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians: “We are ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20). These words deeply touched him. He realized that his faith was not just a matter of fulfilling religious obligations, but of representing Christ in the world, of being an ambassador of God’s love and mercy.

This realization changed John’s life. He decided to surrender himself completely to God, not only in his external actions but also in his heart. He began to strive to live a deeper life of prayer, seeking an intimate connection with the Lord. He also began to wonder how he could be an ambassador of Christ in his work, in his family, and in his community.

This story brings us directly to the Gospel of Matthew, where Jesus teaches us about the true nature of prayer and fasting. He warns us against hypocrisy, the act of performing these religious practices just to be seen by others. Instead, he invites us to pray and fast in secret, with a sincere and humble heart.

Imagine a gardener who tends to his plants only so that others will praise him for his skill. He waters the flowers and prunes the trees with great fanfare, hoping that everyone will recognize his work. But inside, his garden is dry and lifeless. The plants do not receive the attention and care they truly need.

Like this gardener, we may be tempted to seek recognition and praise for our life of faith. We may fall into the trap of performing our religious practices only to impress others. But Jesus reminds us that the true value of these practices lies in our intimacy with God, in our sincere pursuit of a personal relationship with Him.

Now, let me relate these different themes to expand our understanding. Just as sincere conversion and deep prayer life are interconnected, so too are authenticity in our actions and sincerity of our heart. When we seek to be true ambassadors of Christ, we must remember that our words and actions should reflect the grace and love of God.

Let us return to being people of deep prayer, not only in public moments but also in our private lives. We should seek an intimate connection with God, where He knows us in our deepest thoughts and fills us with His presence.

Furthermore, Jesus reminds us of the importance of authentic fasting. Fasting is not just a practice of physical deprivation, but an opportunity to detach ourselves from material things and draw closer to God. It is a way to express our dependence on Him and our desire to live according to His will.

To illustrate this truth, let me share a story with you. There was once a wealthy man who possessed many riches and earthly pleasures. He was known for his generosity in donating to charitable works, but his heart was tied to his possessions. His life was governed by the pursuit of profit and comfort.

One day, he heard about a wise man who lived in the distant mountains. He decided to visit this man in search of wisdom and guidance. When he arrived, the wise man invited him for a walk in the mountains.

As they walked, the wealthy man noticed that the wise man possessed no material wealth. His only possession seemed to be a small bag that he carried with him. Curious, the wealthy man asked what was in the bag.

The wise man smiled and replied, “This bag contains all my most valuable possessions.” Intrigued, the wealthy man asked what these precious possessions were.

The wise man opened the bag and took out a small candle. He lit the candle and said, “This is my greatest wealth, the flame of my faith. It guides me in moments of darkness and helps me find the way to true happiness.”

This story reminds us that true wealth is not in material possessions, but in our relationship with God. When we fast, we give up material things to draw closer to Him. Fasting reminds us that our true and lasting satisfaction does not come from the things of this world, but from the presence and love of God.

Brothers and sisters, today we are called to examine our hearts and the sincerity of our life of faith. We are called to turn to God with all our hearts, to be true ambassadors of Christ, and to seek a life of authentic prayer and fasting.

May we remember that true wealth lies in our relationship with God, not in the material things we possess. May we seek true satisfaction and happiness in His presence, abandoning the illusions and falsehoods of this world.

May the flame of our faith shine brightly in our hearts, guiding us in moments of darkness and helping us find the way to true life. May we live as true disciples of Christ, following His teachings and sharing His love with the world around us.

May this Lent be a time of spiritual renewal, where we draw near to God with sincere hearts and authentic faith. May we commit ourselves to live according to the principles of Scripture and to reflect the divine grace, love, and hope in all that we do.

May the Lord guide us and bless us on this spiritual journey, and may we experience the joy and peace that come from living in intimate communion with Him.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.