Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.
But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever 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 whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
As a child I remember the conflicting feelings I had before Lent each year, trying to figure out what to “give up.” How about vegetables? No, I will never get away with that. How about candy bars? No, that would be too hard. So what should I give up? After a while I stopped giving things up entirely.
In the Principle and Foundation of the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius points out that God creates all things to bring us closer to him. Our attitude toward all of creation should be to embrace those things which unite us to God and reject (“give up”) those things which separate us from God.
So, what might I give up this Lent? The answer to this question should be informed by a consideration of what leads me away from God. I pray for the eyes to see and the ears to hear the truth about what keeps me away from the deepest possible relationship with God here, now and forever. Lord, help me give up that which keeps me from You.
—David McNulty works for the Midwest Jesuits. Dave and his wife Judy are grandparents of six.
Father in heaven, the light of your truth bestows sight to the darkness of sinful eyes. May this season of repentance bring us the blessing of your forgiveness and the gift of your light. Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
—Excerpted from The Roman Missal
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