Ash Wednesday – Sister Maria Tecla da Silva, SNDdeN
Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-18
February 17, 2021
CHARITY, PRAYER AND FASTING – Today’s Gospel highlights the elements of a spiritual journey: prayer, fasting and almsgiving (cf. Mt 6, 1-6.16-18). These three demand that one not be dominated by appearances: what counts is not appearance, but the value of life. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lenten Time for us, a time of penance, reconciliation and conversion which we are called to take seriously and respectfully. In Brazil, the Fraternity Campaign begins, which in this year 2021 is ecumenical and invites us to reflect on the theme “Fraternity and Dialogue: Commitment to Love”. And the motto is, “Christ is our Peace: what was divided, he unified” (Ephesians 2, 14). The text of Matthew 6.1-6.16-18 offers us a teaching on the fundamental practices of the Christian: almsgiving, prayer and fasting. Although the way of doing works of charity has changed over time, the human and Christian attitude of sharing goods with the poorest, with others, remains.
Prayer means living in communion with God and with our brothers and sisters; fasting is knowing how to recognize and control our desires; it relates to us personally. The words of Jesus that we meditate upon must give rise to the creativity needed to find new ways of living these three practices which are so important for our Christian life.
But Jesus also criticizes the fact that some “hypocritical” people practice them only to be seen and praised by others. It does not allow for the practice of justice to be used as a means of social advancement in the community. On the contrary, it must be used in favor of the community. We live in a difficult time of pandemic, and every day we watch people taking advantage of the vulnerable situation of the people. In the words of Jesus, a new type of relationship with God is revealed to us. He says: “Your Father, who sees what is hidden, will give you the reward”. Jesus offers us a way to access the heart of God. Meditating on his words in relation to practices can help to discover this new path: “Be careful not to practice your justice before humans, just to be seen by them. Otherwise, you will not receive the reward from your Father in heaven”. When reading this sentence, we should not only think about the hypocrites of Jesus’ time, but of those around us, and about where hypocrisy lodges within ourselves. This is the key to understanding Jesus’ teaching on godly practices. In this way, the text speaks of prayer, fasting and charity consciously, as the most important acts of our intimate union with the good God. And it makes us aware that these acts must be free and unimpeded, disinterested in recognition and awareness that only the good God has the power to properly reward us.
Matthew 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.”
The Gospel of the Lord