Wednesday, February 22, 2023
Ash Wednesday (Year A)
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.” Matthew 6:1
One thing that offers us worldly satisfaction is public praise. We often want others to notice us for what we have accomplished. We want to be admired and can often go out of our way to let others know how much good we are doing. How about you? Do you regularly seek to elevate yourself in the eyes of others?
In the Old Testament, the seeking of worldly honors was common. In fact, the Law of Moses even spoke of these as “blessings” that would be bestowed as a result of obedience to God (See Deuteronomy 28). But a central tenet of Jesus’ New Law of grace was that earthly honors were no longer to be a goal in life. Instead, the interior treasures of holiness and the wealth stored up in Heaven were to be the focus. Today’s Gospel warns us that seeking human praise will result in the loss of recompense from the Father in Heaven. Giving alms, fasting and praying are best done in secret so that “your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”
As we begin our Lenten journey, it is a good time to honestly examine the intentions and goals of your life of faith and charity. One goal we must have is to practice our life of faith and charity in a hidden way. There must be a certain secrecy to our life of faith. This does not mean we act as if we are not Christian or act as if we are ashamed of our faith. Instead, the “hidden” and “secret” practice of our faith means that we pray, serve, fast, and grow in our relationship with God because we love God and want to serve His will. It means that our greatest reward is the interior blessings we will receive from a relationship with God. We must look within and discover God dwelling there. There must be an interior intimacy with God that only we see. And this secret, interior and intimate love of God must become transforming and all-consuming. How alive is this interior relationship with God in your life?
The good news is that when we intimately enter into a relationship with our loving God in the secret depths of our souls, God will use us to touch others’ lives. We will not become the envy of others or have as our goal their admiration. We will not become the center of attention. Instead, God will use us to help others look into their own souls so as to discover the love God has for them. In a sense, we disappear in this hiddenness, and it is God Who makes a difference in the lives of others through us. This is authentic faith. This is authentic holiness. This is authentic charity. This is the reason we pray, fast and give ourselves to others. Not for our praise, but for the love of God, the holiness of our souls and the salvation of others.
Reflect, today, upon the simple fact that God wants to come to you in a very hidden and secret way this Lent. He wants to reveal His love to you, personally. Not so that you can tell everyone how holy you are. But so that you will know the love of God within you. Reflect upon this hidden and holy relationship God wants to have with you and know that if you allow it to grow, God will also be able to touch others through you in ways that are beyond your understanding.
My hidden Lord, You desire to come to me in the secret depths of my soul and to reveal to me Your love. May I meet You there every day and grow more fully in an intimate relationship with You. As You come to me this Lent, please also use me in many hidden ways to be an instrument of Your love for others. All praise and glory to You, O Lord. Jesus, I trust in You.
40 Days at the Foot of the Cross: Introduction
A Gaze of Love from the Heart of Our Blessed Mother
Featured books for Lent:
Scripture Meditations for Lent
Further Reading – Ash Wednesday
Saint of the Day – Chair of Saint Peter, Apostle—Feast
Not celebrated in 2023 because it is replaced by Ash Wednesday
Featured image above: Ash Wednesday, via flickr