Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Ash Wednesday (Mt 6:1-6,16-18)

I just thought it appropriate to do a small reflection on the start of Lent. We will now enter the forty day period, a period in the desert, and I was all set to write a reflection on this theme. However, when I looked up the Gospel of Ash Wednesday, I didn't find "The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days (Mar 1:12-13)" but something quite different...


The Gospel starts of with "Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven (Mat 6:1)". Kind of a different reading than I was expecting, but off course very relevant for this day when we start the fasting season...


Jesus tells us in a few examples that we should not attract attention to ourselves by what we are supposedly doing for God. If we do this, and try to show others how good or pious we are we achieve frankly exactly the opposite, we stimulate our pride, and that is not the reason for fasting or for praying. If the reason was only to get wordily gain, then it would be easy enough to come up with a thing or two that would be much more convenient then fasting/self denial. No, fasting is denying yourself something in order to gain more...


The essence is that what we do is not to gain merit from others, but that we do it to get closer to God. Fasting and prayer are things we do to get closer to God, and that is the only reason. Jesus stresses a few times that it is in the hidden, in the secret, and that it may "not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret[/hidden]; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you (Mat 6:18)".


We find God in the hidden, in the secret of our heart. It is in silence that we go to this place where we meet Him. Fasting is a help so we empty out ourselves, unite ourselves with our Lord as we make the journey towards Jerusalem, towards calvary. What however is probably the most difficult is the message of the hidden, the secret. It is much easier to do something when we see the result or feel the gain of it. Especially during lent it may seem that God is extremely hidden, or even completely away. However, this is exactly where the gain is, that we trust that He is always with us, even when He is hidden and secret!

"Indeed you love truth in the heart then in the secret of my heart teach me wisdom" (Ps 50(51)).

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