Today’s Gospel: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18 – Ash Wednesday
Ash Wednesday, the day when non-Catholics try NOT to look at your forehead while they’re talking to you. Or maybe you get the opposite reaction – the whatever-you-do-don’t-acknowledge-that-dirt-on-their-forehead reaction. Either way, that not-so-subtle symbol on our foreheads today is a reminder that we’re the reason that Jesus died and is risen. It’s our sinfulness that was the cause for His sacrifice. So, as we begin our preparations for the great celebration of Easter, we first have to remember the sinfulness that preceded the sacrifice.
Our sins should bring us sorrow and regret that we have fallen away from God and His unending love for us. That’s good motivation for us to do better; pray more, sacrifice more, and give more generously to others. But that sorrow isn’t meant to be carried over into our acts of penance. Instead we need to take on our voluntary suffering with joy and peace rather than with long, sad faces as if we’re looking for praise from others.
Jesus warns us in today’s Gospel not to be showy with our suffering. If we are, the reward we get for our suffering will be the praise we get from others here on earth rather than the heavenly rewards that are promised to us by our loving Father. When you think of it that way, the choice for our rewards becomes obvious, doesn’t it? If we’re choosing between imperfect and fleeting accolades in this life or the eternal reward of union with God in the next, it seems like an easy choice. But it isn’t always easy. Sometimes we forget what the choices are. We forget that earthly rewards don’t guarantee heavenly rewards. So, instead of striving for heavenly rewards, we settle for praise from others that is often superficial and fleeting.
How do I approach my sacrifices? With joy or sadness? Am I looking for my reward here on earth or am I seeking a greater reward in heaven?
Loving Father, as we enter this time of preparation for Your Son’s suffering, death, and Resurrection, help us to remember that our small sacrifices bring us greater spiritual rewards than we could ever receive on earth. Amen.
Copyright 2018 Laura Nelson
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