Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
On Ash Wednesday, when we begin the Liturgical Season of Lent, the Church presents us with a Gospel that highlights the importance of prayer and fasting. As Christians, we believe that it is of utmost important that we develop a relationship with Our Lord, through prayer. Prayer allows us to communicate with God, where we are able to always be in contact with the one who created us and who knows us better that we know ourselves. Prayer also takes humility on our part, where we are able to trust in God and know that whatever God wants for us in life will bring us true fulfillment and ultimate happiness. In prayer, we simply raise our minds and hearts to God, and in so doing allow ourselves to be wrapped in His love and protection. St. Therese of Lisieux put it beautifully when she explained that, “prayer is a surge of one’s heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.” As we move into Lent, let us recommit ourselves to spending time in prayer every day, opening our hearts to the love of God.
Fasting is also a very important practice in the Church, and one which is highlighted during the Season of Lent. When we fast, we give up things in life that are good in themselves, out of our love for God. In a society which preaches that we should do everything in our power to ensure prosperity and the attainment of pleasure, the Church invites us to practice self-discipline and mortification. Out of our love for God, we can make little sacrifices during Lent, and in so doing gain spiritual strength, as we prepare to remember the Passion of Our lord and celebrate His resurrection at Easter. Fasting allows us to attain the true freedom of heart, where we are able to acquire a mastery over our instincts, out of our love for God.
In the Gospel passage under reflection, Jesus teaches that we are not to pray and fast in order to get the attention of others, but out of love for God alone. If our intention is to “show off” in our religious practices, then we are moving in the wrong direction. God, and not our own self-image, must always be at the center of all that we do. While it is very important to witness to Christ in a very public way at times, this public witness can never replace the intimate relationship we must have, with God, in the silence of our heart.
As we journey through the season of Lent, let us recommit ourselves to developing our personal relationship with Christ, strengthened and sustained by our renewed efforts of prayer and fasting.
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
-Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18