February 18, 2015

Gospel MT 6:1-6, 16-18
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Take care not to perform righteous deeds
in order that people may see them;
otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.
When you give alms,
do not blow a trumpet before you,
as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets
to win the praise of others.
Amen, I say to you,
they have received their reward.
But when you give alms,
do not let your left hand know what your right is doing,
so that your almsgiving may be secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
“When you pray,
do not be like the hypocrites,
who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners
so that others may see them.
Amen, I say to you,
they have received their reward.
But when you pray, go to your inner room,
close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
“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.”
Reflection:
It’s Ash Wednesday and we have the reading from Matthew’s gospel on almsgiving, prayer and fasting.
I have to admit that I’ve struggled for years with the whole concept of giving up something for Lent. My attitude has been, “What’s the point?”
Once I turned sixty, I thought, “Ok, that’s it. Technically, under church law, I’m not obligated to fast anymore. Besides this whole Lenten fast thing isn’t even mentioned in scripture.”
Strangely, no longer “obligated” to fast, I became curious and started reading about it, learning why I was confused in the first place.
Almsgiving, prayer and fasting will not result in God loving and forgiving me anymore than he already does. With or without these practices he already loves me and my sins are already forgiven. Jesus took care of that when he died on the cross for me.
For me, that’s the whole point. We are approaching Easter, but before this holy day comes the Crucifixion, the time of Jesus’s sacrifice.
Finally, I get it. By performing acts of kindness (almsgiving), praying more often, and abstaining from certain foods my awareness of what Jesus sacrificed for me is raised.
So during the next forty days, when my knees ache carrying a box of food up three flights to someone’s apartment, I’ll think of Jesus carrying his cross up the hill.
When I kneel and pray, I’ll think of Jesus on the cross looking to heaven saying, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
When my taste buds yearn for a delicious hamburger, I’ll abstain and think of Jesus hanging there and sighing: “I thirst,”
When Easter comes, I’ll rejoice. And in gratitude I’ll say to Christ,
“Thank you for fasting from human life that I may have eternal life.”