Mar 6 (Mt 6:1-6,16-18, Ash Wednesday)

A legendary story goes is told of a holy person who lived an extremely virtuous life.

>> The goodness in him diffused, as a flower would spread its fragrance.

So impressed were the angels, that they came down to enquire on his secrets and even to offer him special gifts of miracles and thus he could gain more popularity and fame.

>> They offered him the gift of the “touch of his hand” – so that he would be able to heal the sick or raise the dead…

… But he refused, saying that “God alone could heal”

>> Then, they offered him the “power of conversion” – so that people could turn to God in repentance…

… But he refused, saying that “the Holy Spirit alone could work repentance in souls”

>> Then they offered the power to be a “model of goodness” so that many more would be drawn to him by the virtue of his life…

… But he refused, again, saying that “if all are drawn to him, people would be away from God”

Puzzled, the angels asked him what gift did he desire!

The holy person replied:

“Grant me the gift of humility…

… so that I might do good to all, without me even knowing it!”

And so the angels interceded to God…

… and he was blessed:

>> Wherever his shadow would fall, where he himself could not see it…

… the shadow would cure sicknesses, heal broken hearts and bring back people to God in repentance!

Humility was the virtue that was sought by the virtuous person…

… and it was this simplicity – to allow the Lord to take complete possession of all his goodness – that exalted him to climb the ladder of sanctity higher!

Yes, Humility is the prime virtue that needs to embellish the life of every Christian.

Today we begin the Season of Lent.

The Gospel of the Day is a teaching by Jesus on the prime importance of doing away with pride and instead, beautifying one’s life with sincere humility .

Jesus, through the Sermon on the Mount continues to target the key areas of one’s Christian living.

Today He speaks on the three core practices that were essential pious practices of His time: almsgiving, prayer and fasting.

Jesus condemns these devout exercises becoming instruments to show-case one’s pride and exhibit pomp and self-glory.

>> With respect to almsgiving, Jesus says…

… “sound no trumpet” (Mt 6:2)

>> With respect to prayer, Jesus says…

… “shut the door and pray to your Father” (Mt 6:6)

>> With respect to fasting, Jesus says…

…”anoint your head and wash your face” (Mt 6:17)

One of the fundamental aspects in the Spirituality of Jesus is His emphasis on the intention of the heart.

>> Sin is…

… when the heart rejects the working of the Spirit.

>> Holiness is…

… when the heart accepts the grace of the Spirit.

When the heart consents to evil, sin occurs

>> When the heart consents to grace, goodness is affirmed.

An act of almsgiving happens, when the heart willingly gives – in generosity and with wholeheartedness

>> An act of prayer happens, when the heart seeks communion with the Lord – in openness and with faithfulness

>> An act of fasting happens, when the heart self-sacrifices and renounces – in sincerity and with willingness

When the intention of the heart is genuine and sincere, then one remains least bothered of external attractions and publicity…

… there is no desire to seek for attention and appreciation for one’s devout actions

… there is no inclination to want acknowledgement and recognition for one’s pious deeds

And this is the ideal to which Jesus invites us:

>> A religion that spreads not simply on the basis of external shows..

…but on the basis of genuine spirituality

>> A faith that grows not merely on the strength of pompous deeds…

… but on the foundation of true dependence and trust in the Lord

Is my practice of religion very often a flaunting of my pride and vain glory?

It is also interesting to note that these 3 practices also refers to the 3 dimensions of Love: towards God, towards others, towards oneself

1. Prayer: Reminding ourselves to grow in the Immensity of God’s Love

2. Almsgiving: Reviving our basic duty of caring and being responsible to one another

3. Fasting (Penance): Rediscovering the worthiness of our lives and commit to grow in holiness

Let us give heed to the wisdom from the book “Imitation of Christ” and seek to grow in humility and dependence on the Lord:

“Do not think yourself better than others lest, perhaps, you be accounted worse before God who knows what is in man.

>> Do not take pride in your good deeds, for God’s judgments differ from those of men and what pleases them often displeases Him”

A few practical tips could help us to make this Season of Lent, more meaningful:

1. It is said that habits – to make a new one or to break an old one – generally take around 21 days

>> These 40+ days of Lent are a chance for us to “double” our efforts towards…

… positively growing in a “good virtuous habit”

… negatively rooting out a “not-so-good vicious habit”

(A few examples:

… Reading a portion of the Bible daily

… Learn by heart, some verses of the Bible and make it a personal prayer

… Identify the “root vice” of life, and practice the opposite – “the root virtue”

… Try to frequent Holy Mass / spend time with the Eucharistic Lord, as much as possible

… 40 simple acts of kindness

… Abstain from something that is “dear” and offer it is a sacrifice for someone in need

… Revive personal/family prayer

… Reduce time spent on the internet/social media

… Visit a home of charity or those in our vicinity who needs a help

… Abstain from gossiping/back biting/ irritable words

… Bring a person(s) closer to Christ/Church)

Can we choose, on this day, a habit in our personal life, which we need to “make or break”…

… for these days of Lent?

2. The Season of Lent covers a period of 7 weeks

>> Seven – a number of fullness and completeness is a call for us to grow in the Virtue of Charity.

We could identify 7 people – corresponding to the 7 weeks of Lent, who need our help.

>> This help may be any of the following:

… spiritual help

… social acceptance

… materialistic needs

… emotional assistance

May this Season of Lent help us to take concrete and practical decisions to practise the three pillars of Christian Piety – Fasting, Almsgiving and Praying…

… in its truest sense.

>> And may this be our prayer to enshrine all our activities:

“Grant me the gift of humility…

… so that I might do good to all, without me even knowing it!”

Wish you all a Very Happy and Blessed Season of Lent.

>> May this season of lent, be a time – to revive and renew – and thus grow in Holiness!

May our Blessed Mother of Compassion intercede for us.

God Bless! Live Jesus!

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Quotable-quote-a-day-with-St Francis de Sales (SFS) – “ Fasting is a virtue only when it is accompanied by conditions which render it pleasing to God!”

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