Each one, as a good manager of God's different gifts, must use for the good of others the special gift he has received from God. (1 Peter 4:10)

During this holy season of Lent, it is my intention to write a reflection each day based on the scripture readings from that day’s Mass.

This morning, Ash Wednesday, the readings are drawn from the Old Testament Book of Joel (Joel 2:12-18), Psalm 51, 2 Corinthians (2 Cor. 5:20-6:2), and the Gospel of Matthew (Matt. 6:1-6, 16-18).

These readings reminded me today that the primary relationship we must be concerned with is the one between ourselves and God. All sin causes a fracture in our relationship with God, separates us from Him, and hinders our ability to respond to the workings of God’s grace in us. God tells us, through the prophet Joel, to return ourselves to God through fasting and weeping and mourning. God reminds us, in Psalm 51, that our sins are ultimately against God and that the central problem with sin is that it is evil in God’s sight. And Paul “implores” us, in 2 Corinthians, to “be reconciled to God.” Finally, in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that our prayer, our repentance, or fasting all must be done where only our Father in Heaven can see them, out of the sight of the world and of other people.

Our sins are actions against God, actions of separation between God’s will and our own, acts of rejection of the loving relationship that God wants with us. Our repentance and our atonements, then, are owed solely to God. This means that as we begin to form, with the grace of God, a repentant heart, we recognize that our own actions are not enough to reconcile us. We need Jesus and His redemptive power, flowing into us with the Holy Spirit, to bring us back fully into that primary relationship with our Father.

That doesn’t mean that we are to ignore or set aside our relationships with the world and the people in it.

Our relationship with God, if we are wholly invested in it, will lead us to respond to all of those other relationships in a right way. When God takes pity on us to “leave behind him a blessing,” when He creates a clean heart in us, when He renews us, then what is left is for us to respond in faith and grace to the blessing, to share our renewed heart and spirit, and to become the blessing He wants to give to those around us.

The theme running through today’s readings is one of joy: Joy in the knowledge that God is, already, fully invested in His relationship with us, joy that He wants our hearts to belong fully to Him, and joy that He has provided us, in Jesus, a way for our relationship with Him to be complete and fruitful.

Father, through Your beloved Son You have extended to us the lifelines of faith and grace so that we can be reconciled to You. Help me, as Your beloved child, to grasp firmly those lifelines, to keep my feet firmly on the path that leads to You, and to be so filled with and open to Your love that it overflows onto everyone around me. I ask these things in the name of Jesus and through the intercession of His Blessed Mother. Amen.

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