By Sarah Christmyer
“This is going to be the shortest homily you’ve ever heard,” our priest announced. It was the 6:30 a.m. Mass, and he wanted to reassure the crowd gathered for ashes that they’d get to work on time. “Jesus sums up our Christian life in three things in today’s gospel,” he said, and then spoke a few words about almsgiving, prayer, and fasting. “They’re all in Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18,” he said. “Go home and pray over that and ask the Lord what he’d have you do.”
I thought that was great advice, beginning with sending us all home to meditate on Scripture. And doing that helped me home in on my Lenten practices. But when I saw the same gospel come up for today, I have to admit my first thought was “been there, done that.” Why would I re-visit what I’d spent two months doing, already?
And then I remembered what the priest pointed out. Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving aren’t just for Lent, they define who and what we are as Christians. Spend some time reflecting them and you’ll see why that is: because all three spring from love.
- When we truly love God, one way we show that is by spending time with him in prayer.
- When we truly love others, we give generously to them.
- When we truly love ourselves, we redirect our appetites away from self-indulgence and toward that which truly satisfies.
And when we do any of those things out of love for the Lord, we are less likely to do them so we look good and holy to others (which is what Jesus warns against in this gospel).
I love the way this gospel is paired with the first reading, 2 Corinthians 9:6-11, which turns giving from a chore to a joy. Why? (1) Because God is all about giving us more than enough so that we can give, and (2) Because whoever gives a lot, will receive a lot. God is a giver so we can be givers too!
If you doubt God’s generosity, spend some time with verse 8 and notice all the superlatives:
Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you,
so that in all things, always having all you need,
you may have an abundance for every good work.
What are you waiting for?
How can you give out of that abundance, today?
About the author:
Sarah Christmyer is co-developer and founding editor of The Great Adventure Catholic Bible study program. The author of numerous Bible studies and several guided journals for Bible reading, she speaks at conferences and retreats on topics related to Scripture and the Catholic faith. She teaches at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Philadelphia. Follow her blog at ComeIntotheWord.com.
© 2019 Sarah Christmyer