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Priceless

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Remember those Mastercard commercials? “Airline tickets, $600… designer luggage, $175… spending a tropical vacation with the family, priceless! There are some things in life that money can’t buy…. for everything else there is Mastercard.”

Today’s Gospel calls us to consider what is truly valuable, as we hear familiar parables about hidden treasure, a pearl of great price, and the priceless nature of the kingdom of God.

Jesus invites us to transform our thinking. He doesn’t want us to imagine God’s kingdom in ways that make us passive subjects. It’s dynamic. The coming of God’s kingdom is personal. It speaks of God’s passionate desire for us.

God sees us, even in our sin, as treasures, pearls of great price, and doesn’t hesitate to sacrifice His only Son so that we might be redeemed and become His own … It’s all about the gift!

And what of our response in recognizing that gift; that pearl of great price that each of us are in God’s eyes? We are commissioned to go and do likewise, by giving ourselves away for others… become that gift to one another. St Paul called it: “being conformed to the image of the Son.” Our St. Dominic mission statement doesn’t say it any better: “...become Christ, each one for the sake of all.”

The Symbolism of Ashes

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The liturgical use of ashes can be found throughout the Old Testament. Ashes symbolized penance, mourning, and mortality. the prophet Daniel wrote, "I turned to the Lord God, pleading in earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes." -Daniel 9:3. This and other Old Testament examples illustrate a recognized practice of using ashes and a common understanding of their symbolism.

Jesus Himself made reference to ashes: "If they miracles worked in you had taken place in Tyre and Sidon, they would have reformed in sackcloth and ashes long ago." -Matthew 11:21

In the early Church, those required to do public penance had the priest sprinkle ashes on their heads upon leaving confession. Since the Middle Ages, the Church has used ashes to mark the beginning of the penitential season of Lent, as we remember our mortality and sorrow for our sins.

In our present Ash Wednesday liturgy, ashes made from burned palm branches distributed on Palm Sunday of the previous year, are blessed by the priest or deacon and imposed on the foreheads of the faithful, making a sign of the cross and saying, "Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel."

 

Our Father

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Without a doubt, the “Our Father” is the most universally recognized Christian prayer, uniting believers throughout the world.  It’s a prayer that many of us learned as children and has become so routine, that we might rattle off the words without giving a second thought to their meaning or what we are asking of God.

As I reflect on the words of the Lord’s Prayer, I was struck by three distinct phrases that inspire and challenge me.

First, “Our Father…” We address God in a most personal way. God is our father and we are his children, no different than the loving, caring, relationships we hold dear with our children and families.

“Thy will be done…” In a world that promotes self-centeredness and that it’s all about me…we state in the Lord’s Prayer that it’s not about my wants, but God’s will which is to be done.

The third phrase, and most significant: “Forgive us, as we forgive…” How do we want God to treat us?  By forgiving us in the manner that we forgive others.  How we act towards others, is how we are asking God to treat us!

C. S. Lewis wrote: “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse it means to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves.

The next time you pray the most common of Christian prayers, “The Lord’s Prayer,” reflect on what the words truly mean and what you are asking of God, “Our Father.” I guarantee your prayer will take on a whole new meaning and become anything but common.