Good News for the Day, February 14, 2018
Ash Wednesday (219)
Jesus says to persons he has inspired (disciples): “Take care not to do your good deeds just so that other people will notice them; otherwise, you will have no just response from your heavenly Father. When you give charity, don’t “blow a trumpet before you,” as hypocrites do in houses of prayer and public media to win the praise of other people. The truth is, they have received their reward already. No, when you give charity, don’t let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that whatever good you do may remain unknown. Your Father who sees anything hidden will respond to you. “When you pray, don’t be like hypocrites, who love to stand out and pray in public places such as churches and public media so that other people see them. The truth is, they have received their reward already. No, when you pray, go to some inner room of yours, close the door, and pray to your Father in that hidden place, and your Father who sees anything secret will respond to you. “When you fast or do any such religious act, do not look so serious – like hypocrites. They refashion their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be doing some authentic religious act, such as fasting. The truth is, they have received their reward already. No, when you fast, present your self as ordinary, so that you may not appear to be doing something religious– except for your Father who remains unseen. your Father who sees anything hidden will respond to you.” (Matthew 6)
“This generation” does things to be noticed, to persuade or control other people, to win praise and be liked, and, in general, to appear better, stronger, or smarter than other people. Jesus calls these people “hypocrites,” the Greek word for an actor, someone who wears a mask, and pretends to be someone they are not.
The call here is to avoid that attitude of hypocrisy. Jesus says not to do things so that people notice you. Give to charity and be charitable in ways that are not noticed (and then forget them). Pray more in your heart than through your lips. Do your Lenten practices in ways that people do not notice you; consider them a standard way of living, casual and not extraordinary.
The great gift of all this secrecy is intimate communication with God, our lover. God comes to you in the quiet, away from the crowd, and the prayer life that no one sees. What develops is a kind of pillow talk in an intimate, soft way with Someone who loves you – a romance with God. (After all, this year, it is Valentine’s Day!)