06 Mar 2019: The snail and the sparrow

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Ash Wednesday 

Reading 1: Joel 2:12-18; Reading 2: 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2; Gospel: Matthew 6:1-6,16-18

… by doing this you will lose all your reward from your Father in heaven.

Do you think of virtue as something painful, which you, regretfully have to give up, and sin as something pleasurable? Think again. Virtue is pleasurable and is its own reward. We are to be good, because it is a joy to be good. We need to love because it is exhilarating to love. We pray because it is the greatest privilege and bliss for a human person!

This is what the Gospel tells us today. When you fast, or pray or give alms do not do it for some other purpose. It is not just hypocritical but worse, foolish.

Fasting is not for despising the taste for food, but it creates a taste for things superior.

Praying is not for getting favours that we want, much less, to be seen by others, but for infinitely greater rewards from the Lord.

Alms giving is not for a condescending display of charity, but to attain the liberation of the spirit, and the sheer joy of being outgoing from one’s own self.

Will you give away gold in exchange for iron? How can you fill your hands with mud, while pearls are being offered to you?

The season we are starting today has a central purpose – to give us a taste of virtue for its own beauty and pleasure. The insight itself is the greatest grace we should pray for.

Think of a snail and a sparrow. Sin weighs us down like the residence that a snail carries on its back. It cannot minimally leave the ground and be free. Virtue, instead, gives us wings like the sparrow. It rises at will and flies where it wants.

It is love that makes us light and elevates us from the ground and gives us an inner freedom that otherwise we cannot imagine. Let us not miss the finest things that God has to offer us in this season. That is why this is a Season of Grace!

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