Ash Wednesday – ushering in the lenten season with spiritual disciplines


Ash Wednesday ushers in the Lenten season with readings that sets the tone, reflecting the mind of the Church.  A Christian by his/her life is called to fast, pray and give alms. So make no mistake, Lent is not a time when we begin these spiritual disciplines as a disciples, lent is a time when we heighten them. Three times Jesus, in Matthew’s gospel will say,” WHEN you fast, WHEN you pray, WHEN you give alms.” Jesus does not say IF you fast, IF you pray, IF you give alms. So the disciples spiritual discipline is taken as a given; disciplines that must run through our lives all year long. This is merely an intensive period.

The readings of today are eye openers even though we have read them many times. In the first reading the prophet Joel calls for a fast with trumpet blasts and yet in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says do not trumpet your almsgiving. So let’s place this in perspective. The Jews fasted publically only on Yom Kipur, the day of atonement, which was the last day of a ten day penitential period. Yom Kipur was a public fast which was called to unite all the penitents. The Jews would also have other days of public fasting. For example they would fast in the face of invasion or famine and they also had their own traditional days of fasting, namelyTuesdays and Thursday like we Christians have on Wednesdays and Fridays. Joel is calling a public fast in the face of a locust devastation and in the face of an invading army. It is his hope that God will spare His people, wich He does. the prophet Joel invites the whole assemblty to fast, from priest to people. So too the Church, picking up from these traditions, flank the season of lent with two public fasts; on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday

In between these public days of fast is the private period of Lent; private to every disciple. That is why Jesus will decry the hypocrisy of the Pharisees who wanted to sound the trumpet when they gave alms in the temple; decry their fasting which was done covered in ashes to wins men’s attention or praying in street corners to be seen. Jesus is emphatic; you have you reward! When we corrupt faith, we use it to  draw attention to ourselves. The Christian is called to a private Lenten period; He/she and their God. Let’s not get the bull by the tail. Because Jesus decries the hypocrisy of the Pharisees he is not denying the practice of the Lenten disciplines. Some Catholics feel quite ‘concerned’ about the hypocrisy of other Catholics and find in it an excuse to exempt themselves from the discipline itself.  Loose hypocrisy, not the discipline!

So the public fasts, as in the first reading, reminds  us that what should be shown to the world should not be hidden. For example our faith that we hold fast, must be proclaimed and not hidden. The private fasts are a reminder to the disciple to perform in secret, what should not be told to the world. But while Jesus cautions us against a public demonstrations of what ought to be private, He also cautions us not parade our generosity to ourselves. In sighting the example of the right hand not knowing what the left is doing, Jesus is calling for an abstinence from the possible self-righteous pleasure we may derive  in our head from our giving, or praying or fasting. Perhaps there is a record in our head of the good that WE have done, the amount WE have prayed or the fasts WE have observed. St Paul will remind us that if we did it out of love then “Love keeps no records” (I Cor, 13)

So welcome to this very public Ash Wednesday and then a great period of private Lenten disciplines. We rend not our garments; we turn rather to the Lord and change our hearts. Be blessed; be filled with JESUS as you enter this desert filled with spiritual streams.


Fr Warner D’Souza

Prepared also, with a lot of help from my heart.



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3 thoughts on “Ash Wednesday – ushering in the lenten season with spiritual disciplines”

  • A beautiful insite into the Lenten period. Wonderfully said “Lets heighten the Spritual discipline in the Lenten”

  • Thank you father for bringing us more closer to Jesus our Lord…

  • Thank you Fr. May the season of Lent bring a change within each one of us, to be always righteous in the eyes of God. May we pledge ourselves never to.hurt or offend Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour who has showered His love for us from the Cross. God bless you Fr.


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