God Sees Our Secrets

Ash Wednesday

Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-18
Jl 2:12-18 / Ps 51 / 2 Cor 5:20–6:2

. . . and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
(Matthew 6:4,6 and 18)

Good deeds that seek a ton of praise
Are only worth an ounce of grace.
Kind acts performed in secrecy
Live on for all eternity.

Jesus said, “Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 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. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not pray like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, to be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 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. 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. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 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.”

Reflection

Six times our Lord Jesus mentioned the word “secret” — perhaps because He wanted to emphasize that no good deed done for the praise of men ever gained any spiritual benefits. This is the common pitfall of everyone who has a hidden desire for recognition. Some say it is just human nature to crave for acceptance from our peers. But this is a short step from seeking their adulation if not tempered with humility. That is why our Lord admonishes us to hide all our good deeds, so that we may not fall into this weakness, this flaw in our human nature. Giving alms, fasting, and abstaining from pleasure are effective ways of atoning for sins, but only if done in secrecy.

It is unfortunate that many people today are still living the artificial life, even in the practice of their faith. They like to hear and see their names up on the white screen before the show of a fund-raising event begins. At a recent benefit show we attended, not a single ‘Anonymous’ or ‘From a Friend’ was listed among the dozens of benefactors and patrons that donated huge sums for the beneficiaries of the event.

The humble man is content to do his best and nothing more, because he knows God will do the rest. He who does not seek the praises of men is happy and contented in silently doing God’s will for him, knowing that in the end he will receive his reward when he hears the Father tell him, “Well done, good and faithful servant, come and enjoy the fruits of your labor in My kingdom.”

As You have given us the precious things in this life, and even humbled Yourself on the cross that we may be saved, so may we also humbly share with others. Amen.

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