February 18th – “Don’t be a hypocrite”
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
“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.
“Thus, 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 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, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have 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 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.”
In the Catholic Church, our time during Lent signifies the time that Jesus spent in the desert (ccc 540), 40 days and does not include Sunday because it is the Sabbath day (the Sabbath is a holy day therefore the fast can be broken). It is a time of penance, a time of fasting and almsgiving, and a time to do charitable or missionary works (ccc 1438). It is not the time to “show off” how religious we are or to brag about how much we are giving up for Lent.
It is the hypocrites who want to show off how much money they give to the poor or charity. It is not wrong for us to be honored if we are able to give a large amount of money for a good cause or charity, but we are not to give while looking to be noticed. We need to honor God by giving from the heart, rather than seeking honor and praise from other people.
The same goes for when we pray or go to Church. It is not necessary to make an announcement, “I am going to Church to pray,” so you can look pious among the secular. If you decide to go to daily Mass or sign up for an adoration time for Lent, find a time that doesn’t interfere with daily activities. Go and pray, and give your time to God.
Finally, when we fast on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday or any other time we decide to give up food during the year, look as normal as possible. We don’t want to bring unnecessary attention to ourselves that we are giving something up for God. Kids have fun announcing that they are giving up candy or snacks for Lent. As adults, we shouldn’t brag about being able to give up meat or pop, just do it. If you give up desserts then just say politely “no thank you.” God knows what is in your heart and all that you have done or given up for Him. Don’t seek credit for what you do for God, through honor found in mere men. If we do, then that is all the praise we will receive. Don’t be a hypocrite.
Lent in Action:
Do not brag or complain about fasting and abstaining from meat today or any Friday during Lent.
My Lord and Savior, help me to follow your example and not to search for praise from my friends and coworkers. Help me to only seek to honor and make happy my Father in heaven through my prayers, fasting, and charity. Amen.