Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18.
We are all used to attention getters.
Commercials use them
to draw our attention to their products.
Homilists do the same thing
to help us focus on a point they are making.
So the question Jesus proposes in today’s gospel is,
“Who gets all the attention when we pray,
when we fast, and when we give alms?”
I can tell you from my own experience
that when the focus of attention is on me
prayer can be pretty boring
and fasting and almsgiving be very difficult.
If I’m just concerned about myself
and not with the Lord in prayer
I can’t wait to get through it
and keep thinking about what else I could be doing.
It’s amazing when my focus is on God
and I am doing my best to listen to him,
the time goes so fast and many times
it’s hard to leave his Presence.
The same is true with fasting and almsgiving.
If I’m only loving myself when I fast
or give to the poor, I really feel the pinch.
I don’t like doing it and many times dread it.
How different it is I do it out of love for Jesus
or for someone who needs my generosity.
A real joy fills my heart and I realize
that I really didn’t need that snack
or chocolate or donation.
It’s hard to believe how much I wanted it
but now could care less about it.
Lastly, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving
can prepare my heart to look at my relationships
with people and Jesus honestly,
And look at those relationships WITHOUT FEAR
of what I might lose if I give them a little of my attention.
This is how St. Teresa of Lisieux relates this in a story attributed to her.
She teaches us
how we can have humble confidence
in our Lord Jesus, even when dealing
with our own sinfulness.
In this story, 2 daughters have done something serious to offend their loving father. Later, when they hear their father’s approaching footsteps, one of them runs off and hides while the other runs to her father, jumps into his arms, and confesses her offense to him. The father loves both daughters, but one has broken his heart while the other has consoled it.
During these next 40 days of Lent,
let us not keep running away from Jesus in fear.
Let us intentionally, with all our will,
place ourselves in his arms of mercy and console his heart.