Ash Wednesday - Bountiful Spirit Reading and Reflection
Wednesday, February 17, 2021
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
"Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven."So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell 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 done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you."And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.But whenever 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 whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Reflection by Barrie Carter Gibby
How often are we lured to have acknowledgement for something we have given or done? Our printed name as a donor, a letter sweater, an award or token of credit are examples, or – as Jesus indicates in Matthew 6 – actions like sounding the trumpet when giving alms, disfiguring your face during fasting, or standing for prayer so as to be seen.
These words in Matthew are a continuation of Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, guidelines for living faithfully in the eyes of God. Notice that the words are “whenever you give alms, . . . whenever you pray. . . . whenever you fast” indicating an assumption that we will do these things. There is no “if”. The directives from Jesus to us are absolute.
All these showy “credits” for wrongly skewed disciplines are distractions from the purity of our faith calling. The less we show how wonderful we are, the more we walk a direct path to our deeper selves and deeper faith. God sees us in all our roles, good deeds and bad decisions. To give from that warm place in the heart, to pray silently, and to fast unnoticed are the treasures seen by God. Are we living in the temporary mode of earthly things, or are we storing our treasures for life in heaven? We spend our lives challenged with this question.Our blessings from God include our ability to pray, to give, to simplify and to fast at this Lenten time and going forward. These are the true treasures, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”