Friday after Ash Wednesday

Epistle  •  Isaias 58:1-9

Lesson from the Prophet Isaias.

[The external works of penance such as prayer, fasting, almsgiving, which should be practiced during Lent, have no value in the sight of God unless they are accompanied by the spirit of interior sacrifice or self-denial.]

Thus saith the Lord God: Cry, cease not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show My people their wicked doings and the house of Jacob their sins. For they seek Me from day to day and desire to know My ways, as a nation that hath done justice and hath not forsaken the judgment of their God: they ask of Me the judgments of justice: they are willing to approach to God.

Why have we fasted, and Thou hast not regarded: have we humbled our souls, and Thou hast not taken notice? Behold in the day of your fast your own will is found and you exact of all your debtors. Behold you fast for debates and strife, and strike with the fist wickedly. Do not fast as you have done until this day, to make your cry to be heard on high. Is this such a fast as I have chosen, for a man to afflict his soul for a day? Is this it, to wind his head about like a circle, and to spread sackcloth and ashes? Wilt thou call this a fast and a day acceptable to the Lord?

Is not this rather the fast that I have chosen? Loose the bands of wickedness, undo the bundles that oppress, let them that are broken go free, and break asunder every burden. Deal thy bread to the hungry, and bring the needy and the harborless into thy house: when thou shalt see one naked, cover him, and despise not thine own flesh.

Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thy health shall speedily arise, and thy justice shall go before thy face, and the glory of the Lord shall gather thee up. Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall hear; thou shalt cry, and He shall say: Here I am. For I the Lord thy God am merciful.

Gospel  •  Matthew 5:43-48, 6:1-4

 Continuation of the holy Gospel according to St. Matthew. 

[The spirit of interior sacrifice shows itself in works of mercy made out of consideration for our neighbor, without distinction of friend or enemy, and with the sole intention of pleasing God. Let us ask for the spirit of sacrifice or self-denial.]

At that time Jesus said to His disciples: You have heard that it hath been said: Thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thy enemy. But I say to you: Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you; and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you: that you may be the children of your Father Who is in Heaven, Who maketh His sun to rise upon the good and bad, and raineth upon the just and the unjust. For if you love them that love you, what reward shall you have? Do not even the publicans this? And if you salute your brethren only, what do you more? Do not also the heathens this? Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.

Take heed that you do not your justice before men, to be seen by them: otherwise you shall not have a reward of your Father Who is in Heaven. Therefore when thou dost an alms-deed, sound not a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honored by men. Amen I say to you, they have received their reward. But when thou dost alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doth: that thy alms may be in secret, and thy Father, Who seeth in secret, will repay thee.