Ash Monday Readings

2 Corinthians 5:20-6:7
So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. Working together, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says: “In an acceptable time I heard you, and on the day of salvation I helped you.” Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. We cause no one to stumble in anything, in order that no fault may be found with our ministry; on the contrary, in everything we commend ourselves as ministers of God, through much endurance, in afflictions, hardships, constraints, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, vigils, fasts; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, in a holy spirit, in unfeigned love, in truthful speech, in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness at the right and at the left. Praise be to God always.
Matthew 6:16-21
“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be. This is the Truth. Peace be with you.

What is lenten fasting about? Weight loss? Showing the world how holy we are? Punishment? Self control?
No, fasting is about hope. Hope that we will receive the gift of eternal life. Our hope in the next life and our hope in Christ are the key elements we fasting as Christians. The goal of fasting is to find our hearts and our joy in God rather than looking for it in our bellies and in this world. When we say we will not eat today or we will eat less or we will eat simply, we profess our hope in the joy of the resurrection and of eternal life. We fast because of our hope in the treasures we can store up in heaven. We fast because we “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life.” (John 6:27) We have hope in the Bread of Life rather than in earthly food. Lenten fasting is about hope, Christ our hope. The mark of hope-filled fasting is joy, “we do not look gloomy”, but joyful. In living our faith in hope our focus is on the next world and our heart is with God and we are joyful.

(Readings from from the NAB)