Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you give alms, let not your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Introductory Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, as I begin another Lent, I see you inviting me through the Church to turn my heart back to you. I want to show you my faith, my hope and my love for you in the way I live this Lent. I will offer you the following sacrifice…(say which one), to express my choice for you above all else, to make reparation for my past sins, and to intercede for all who still struggle with serious sin.
Petition: Help me, Lord, to sincerely place you above all things, and grant me the grace not to harden my heart when I hear your voice.
1. Christ Invites Us to Give Alms, Pray and Fast. Lent is a time of conversion, a journey and a time of preparation so as to acquire the dispositions that will make more fruitful our living of the mystery of Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection. This conversion is assisted by almsgiving, prayer, and fasting. These are necessary, but the conversion sought by Christ is much more than the mere external fulfillment of some particular acts of virtue. They must be a sign of and an aid to our Interior repentance, which is a radical reorientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our heart, an end to sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions we have committed. At the same time it entails the desire and resolution to change our life, with hope in God's mercy and trust in the help of his grace (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1431).
2. "Take Care Not to Perform Righteous Deeds in Order that People May See Them." Good things can be done for the wrong reason. What leads us to parade our good works before others is vanity and pride; we like to be seen, taken into account, praised and accepted by others. It is easier to do the externals than to work on the interior change Christ wants us to make, because whatever difficulty the external act implies is amply rewarded by the opinion others have of me or my own good feelings about myself. This can even be true of our prayer and acts of charity. Therefore Christ asks us to give alms, pray and fast out of love for God and not in order to be seen; he actually encourages us to choose to do them in a way that we won’t be noticed. This does not mean that he wants us to hide the fact that we are his disciples, for he also said that he would deny before his Father those who denied him before men. So he is not encouraging a false religious modesty, which causes us to always hide our faith and can be an excuse for human respect. As Christians we are also called to be the light of the world.
3. "Your Father Who Sees in Secret Will Repay You." Christ tells us here what the Father is like and what he seeks. He wants the relation between us and him to be authentic love, where we do for him what we know pleases him, and we know that he will do for us what he knows is best for us. The Father is interested in the smallest and most private things in our life. He wants to live them with us. His greatest delight is to see reflected in us the attitudes of his Son, who does always “what pleases the Father”. Much of Christ’s own prayer was done in the early morning before the crowds found him, he fasted on his own in the desert, and the disciples knew he gave the money people gave to him to the poor, but they didn’t know to whom or how. Jesus asks us to trust and love the Father as he did. God who sees all things, and accompanies us in all our joys and all our sorrows, even the most hidden. It is precisely this loving God who wants to reward all our hidden acts of love.
Conversation: Lord, give me the necessary grace to turn away from sin and to follow you with a sincere heart. Let everything I do be out of love of you and my neighbor, so that in seeking you, you will be my reward.
1. What is my Lenten resolution?
2. How much to I look for attention and praise when doing what I know is right?
3. How personal and real is my relationship with God, is it enough for me that he sees what I do?