Posted on Thu, Feb 19, 2015
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-2 Ash Wednesday
February 18, 2015
Gospel Text: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 “…you hate nothing you have made…”
‘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. 2 ‘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. 3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
5 ‘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. 6 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.
16 ‘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. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 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.
19 ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
The Holy Season of Lent begins with the serious message that reminds us that we are “mortal.” The definition of “mortal” is, a human being subject to death, often contrasted with a divine being.” From dust we have come, and it is to dust we shall return. We often speak about God living in us, or within us, and this imagery is okay as long as the imagery doesn't tell us that WE are God. God is the source of all life and joy, so therefore we have to remember that we are not God. To say that we would like to become godlike would be rather disappointing considering how small we are in contrast to how much God has created and redeemed, and also how much God has in store for us as forgiven Children of Christ. In order for us to understand the joy of Easter, we need to understand that we truly are dust, and it is an amazing God who has, through a breath, brought our dust to life.
We are amazed by the grandeur of the Cosmos. Planets and galaxies that spin and careen through space and we are held at attention amazed by the simple size and magnitude of these monstrous formations. But our attentiveness to the grandeur of the cosmos must also be attentive to the truth that the Creator of the Universe, also hears our prayers, our laughter as well as our cries and fears.
When we look to the Creator from the point of view of us as the created and the object of the Creator’s love, the conclusion of our attentiveness and understanding is not found in a scientific formulation, or an intellectual conclusion, or even a technical certainty but to a lyrical self-abandonment which finally leads to wonder and gratitude.
Our journey in Lent should lead us in a journey looking to the Creator as the source of all life, creation, gratitude and ultimate freedom. Imagine yourself standing before our God totally naked and defenseless. Through the Cross of Christ, God does not look upon us with judgment and contempt, but as a child with great insignificance. Through the Cross of Christ and the Baptismal Promise, God sees us we truly are, forgiven, loved, full of mercy and capable of great compassion.
The problem is whether we can see ourselves as God sees us?
Therefore, Lent becomes a journey of self-examination we must all travel on. Jesus makes it clear that we must go to quiet places so that we are not distracted and look into our deepest being, even the places we don’t like going to visit, and open those places up to the healing compassion of forgiveness. The easy thing is to allow ourselves to be distracted or justify our thoughts and actions, or just blame someone or something else for all of our troubles.
In the Biblical translations, we often hear that believing persons are to learn to “fear God.” The phrase “fear God,” is often taught that the meaning is closer to “trusting God.” As we continue our journey and recognize that we are the object of love by this awesome Creating God, we begin to understand the fact that we are indeed helpless before God… but this is a good thing because our God is a God of ultimate compassion, and will not reject us no matter how afraid we may be deep down inside, and therefore before God we are most free to cast off all those things that draw us away from God.
During Lent, we all seem to ask each other, “What are you giving up for Lent?” People look upon Lent as a “time for feeling guilty. On the contrary, it is a time of shedding off old and self-destructive habits that draw us from our Compassionate God. Through a humble trusting faith, we can allow God the Holy Spirit to fill those holes in our heart, mind and soul that today are just filled with garbage and baggage. But you will have to trust God enough to go to a quiet place to open and examine your heart. This is truly a real journey that you must choose to travel if the season of Lent will have any meaning. If you really examine yourself, and you may need a trusted friend or two, to identify those things that are harmful and distracting in our Journey of faith with Jesus, then the significance of Good Friday and the depth of love shown to us through the innocent suffering of Christ will become a life changing moment.
As Easter people, we actually do know the end of the journey. But without any self-examination and repentance, we may only casually say, “it ends with an empty tomb.” But if we confess our sins, and allow our sinful and prideful side to die and fall away, the truth and faithfulness of God given to us through the Cross of Christ, will lift us up and truly make us a new person, and our church will also become a renewed community of faith.
But like every journey, you must make the first step, and follow up with all the required steps, until we too arrive at the tomb like the women in the Easter Story expecting nothing but only death, only to discover all that Jesus promised was true, and now both you and Jesus are alive, through forgiveness we all will have risen indeed.
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