For Your Glory, Abba

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Ash Wednesday

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

“[But] 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 others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, grant me a purity of heart that seeks to love you for your sake alone. 

Encountering Christ:

  1. The Tendencies of the Heart: In these three admonitions, Jesus warns against hypocrisy of heart. Do not pray, give alms, or fast for the sake of appearance. This human tendency of vainglory seems naturally ingrained within us. We sometimes stake a claim on our works so as to take all the credit in the eyes of others. But Jesus invites us to rediscover a deeper tendency within our heart. Prayer, almsgiving, and fasting are all noble endeavors.  They reveal the human spirit’s desire to communicate with God (prayer), to selflessly provide for those in need (almsgiving), and participate in a spiritually redemptive act, (fasting). Made in God’s image, we have these noble desires within, but they can get tainted by disordered self-love. Jesus invites me during this penitential season to examine and purify my love by prayer, almsgiving, and fasting.
  1. For the Father: As God’s children, we live in the Father’s loving gaze. Who but God knows the depths of our human intention. Rather than fear his wrath, we are encouraged and strengthened by our Father who wants to see his children alive with the selfless heart of his Son. This is a transformation process that takes time, collaboration, and grace. It is above all a growth in our identity as sons and daughters of God, in a heart to heart relationship. As God becomes more real, more of a Father, we respond not with a self-preserving egotism, but with a sincere and loving surrender to our heavenly Father.
  1. Your reward: Jesus says that the Father who sees in secret will repay me. I can’t think of any prouder moment than when I received praise from my own father on earth. How blessed would I be to hear from my heavenly father, “This is my beloved son/daughter, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matthew 17:5). This Lent, I want to orient all of my actions and thoughts toward the glory of the Father, knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that my efforts please him. 

Conversing with Christ: Jesus, I desire a pure heart that loves you above all else, especially above my own self-image and ego. I trust that you will transform my heart more and more into your image. Let me hear your words, “This is my beloved daughter in whom I am well-pleased.”

Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will make an act of purity of intention, offering my prayer, sacrifice, and works to please my heavenly Father above all else.

For Further Reflection: A Strategy for Lent by Jeff Cavins,

written by Jennifer Ristine 

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