February 14, Ash Wednesday
Day of Fast and Abstinence
Daily Readings: Joel 2:12–18, 2 Corinthians 5:20–6:2, Matthew 6:1-6, 16–18
The time of grace begins with Ash Wednesday. The Lenten preparations for the Easter celebrations mark our return to the Lord. And that is exactly the strong message of Prophet Joel. The Lord himself speaks, “Return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping and with mourning. The good news for the wayward people of Israel is that God “is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing” (v. 13).
Sanctification of the people is high on the agenda. Fasting is one of the ways. The ministers of the Lord have a special role to play. They are to weep between the vestibule and the altar. The Lord responds positively to the pleas of his people and pities them. The choice of the Psalm for the responsorial Psalm sets the tone for the entire Lenten season: “Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned!
The Season of Lent is constructed on three pillars. These basic tenets are almsgiving, prayer, and fasting. They involve the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of human beings. These practices are not intended to be advertised. Publicity is the enemy of all these practices. They are personal pious practices to raise our hearts and minds to God. We should not make known the charity we do with our right hand to our left hand.
Prayer is a personal affair between God and the devotee. To receive a reward, the devotee should pray in secret. Fasting purifies the body and mind. They cleanse the soul. One should not restrict fasting to food alone. One can also fast from one’s evil tendencies and ways. God, who sees all these things done in secret, will reward us. God will deprive those of us who receive rewards from humans of their glory in heaven.
Paul calls on the Corinthians to reconcile themselves with God. Every day of this holy season is an acceptable time. It is the time of salvation. Let’s commit ourselves to renewing ourselves and our commitment to God. Those who practice fasting and abstinence with a sincere heart experience purity of mind and body. They also experience lots of inner strength and purity.
Call to Action for Catholic Living: Lenten practices such as almsgiving, praying, and fasting bring us closer to God and fellow human persons. We need to have the right perspective. How serious are we in our spiritual life?
Radio Veritas Asia (RVA), a media platform of the Catholic Church, aims to share Christ. RVA started in 1969 as a continental Catholic radio station to serve Asian countries in their respective local language, thus earning the tag “the Voice of Asian Christianity.” Responding to the emerging context, RVA embraced media platforms to connect with the global Asian audience via its 21 language websites and various social media platforms.