“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.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
Jesus encourages not only the practice of prayer, almsgiving and fasting – the pillars of our annual Lenten journey – but more importantly how to and how not to perform these observances. Jesus calls out the “hypocrites” who feign virtue by making a public spectacle of their actions in order to receive recognition and praise. This is their only reward, nothing more. Jesus offers an alternative and teaches his disciples to pray, give alms and fast quietly in “secret,” in their heart and in the presence of God alone. God will “repay” them.
Hypocrites did not vanish with the scribes and Pharisees. They are still visible and active in our world today. So also is the call of Jesus for each of us to act with a humble heart. He challenges us to discover the graces of prayer, charity, mercy and love everyday of our lives.
—Jim Sweany is a Spiritual Director in the Ignatian tradition. He is associated with the Chicago Region Ignatian Volunteer Corps as a Spiritual Animator, reflector and Advisory Board Chair. He also directs the Spiritual Exercises for the SEEL program at Loyola University.
Lord Jesus Christ,
you have taught us to be merciful like the heavenly Father,
and have told us that whoever sees you sees him.
Show us your face and we will be saved….
Send your Spirit that the Jubilee of Mercy may be a year of grace from the Lord,
and your Church, with renewed enthusiasm, may bring good news to the poor,
proclaim liberty to captives and the oppressed,
and restore sight to the blind. Amen.
—from Pope Francis’ Prayer for the Year of MercyPlease share the Good Word with your friends!