God Loves Secrets

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.” (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18)

Reflection

Today, Ash Wednesday, marks the beginning of Lent, the 40-day period when most Christians all over the world observe a time of preparation for Easter, the holiest and most significant celebration of our faith: the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The forty day preparation was not meant to lend more importance to the Easter celebration, but to commemorate the 40 days of fasting that our Lord Jesus spent in the desert to prepare for His ministry (Mt.4:1-2, Mk.1:12-13, and Lk.4:1-2).

The season of Lent is a time when our Church is calling upon the faithful to practice charity, penitence, forgiveness, simplicity and restraint. All these must be performed in the spirit of humility (in secret). This is symbolized by receiving the mark of the cross with ashes on our forehead today, recalling the biblical practice of sitting on ashes in sackcloth to express sorrow for some loss or penitence for one’s sins (as in the case of King David in 2 Samuel 12:16, and the king of Nineveh in Jonah 3:6).

Our Lord never mentioned His extreme method of fasting for forty days even when the disciples of John questioned Him why His disciples did not fast (Mt.9:14). In fact, six times in this Gospel Jesus mentioned the word “secret” — perhaps 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 adulation if our motive is 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.

A humble heart, Lord, let me find, take away all feelings of righteousness and pride; make me constantly realize that all my sacrifices mean nothing if not done in repentance for all my sins. Amen.

Comments are closed.