By Michael Smith
A Reading from the Gospel of Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness 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 somber, like the hypocrites, for they mark their faces 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.”
We are used to hearing this reading from Matthew on Ash Wednesday. It sounds rather oddly out of place here in the Easter season. But should it? Although we have become accustomed to almsgiving, prayer, and fasting as our Lenten agenda, they could be parts of our lives year-round.
What charity, ministry, or organization which works for the relief of the poor could use your financial support? Fasting, refraining from food for spiritual purposes, can be practiced at any time to make us aware of our need for God or to put an exclamation point on a special request to the Almighty. Finally, there is prayer, a conversation with God about anything that can be done anytime and anywhere. Anglican ascetical theologian Martin Thornton wrote that our prayer practice is a three-fold exercise of Holy Eucharist, daily offices, and private prayer.
Spiritual practices: not just for Lent anymore! “Your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
Michael G. Smith served as bishop of North Dakota for fifteen years and is currently the Assistant Bishop of Dallas. He works with the Navajoland Iona Collaborative and is a Benedictine Oblate and an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.
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