The season of Lent when you pray, fast, and give alms
Gospel Reading: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
1 “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. 2 “Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 5 “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 received their reward. 6 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. 16 “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 received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 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.”
The forty days of Lent is an imitation of Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness. 40 is a significant number in the scriptures. For example, Moses went to the mountain to seek the face of God for 40 days of prayer and fasting. The people of Israel were in the wilderness for 40 years in preparation for their entry into the promised land.
Lent is a period where we are called to journey with the Lord in preparation for Easter – a time of prayer, fasting and almsgiving to those in need. It is a season where we are given time to step back and examine our lives. During this time, we have an opportunity to draw closer to God and be renewed by the Holy Spirit.
Jesus’ words in this reading gives us ideas about what we might do during Lent. Jesus warns his disciples not to do good deeds so others will think they are good people. Jesus wants them to be aware of their motivation for what they do. He wants them to do what is right or good because they desire to help others, to be compassionate, to love others and make the world a better place. Jesus calls for generosity – To Give! To Share! To Lend!
Jesus is really concerned about what motivates them. Jesus hopes their actions and decisions will flow from love of God, love of the Gospel and love for the people and the world.
Life is a journey, with mountains, valleys and unexpected challenges. Jesus calls for great courage, asking us to draw deeply on our reserves. To take up our cross and let God speak to the world through our life. God is really asking us to depend on him, to let his spirit come to life so we may grow in hope, faith and love.