Sacrifice from Within

6 March 2019. Ash Wednesday

Reflection (Sem. John Reyman S. Dabuet)

Today, Ash Wednesday, marks the beginning of the season of Lent. We, as a Church of pilgrims, journey with Jesus in His Paschal Mystery through our works of mercy, prayer, and self-sacrifice like fasting and abstinence. As Catholics, we enter this grace-filled season with contrite hearts and humble spirits, as the said acts bring us closer to a self-reflection on how we are doing as children of God. We ask ourselves, “Are we striving for holy lives or are we continuing old sinful and worldly lives?” Hopefully, we make a conscious decision to choose the former. Doing the three pious acts of almsgiving, prayer, and fasting should help us in the process. Jesus, himself, instructed his disciples on the right way to do so. He says we should give alms in anonymity, pray in secret, and fast in hiddenness. These ways only suggest that Jesus wants these acts of sacrifice to start from within. Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince mentions, “What is essential is invisible to the eye.” The essential and important parts of these acts must be invisible to the eye and furthermore, must be rooted in a person’s heart. Almsgiving, prayer, and fasting should then be acts of love for a person who truly wants to submit himself and be closer to God, rather than acts of showing off or complying with obligations. In previous years, I always find it hard to do fasting and almsgiving especially during the Lenten season. When giving alms to the Church, I often have this tendency to count the cost, and give only minimally. When fasting, I often justify my own tiredness from working in the hospital so that I can forego fasting, or again do it minimally. There is always a tendency to think of the self, and I think that’s the point. The Gospel and this season call us to forget the self: to forget the costs and the sufferings, so that we may focus not on ourselves but on Jesus.

The Gospel Today

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Take care not to perform righteous deeds
in order that people may see them;
otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.
When you give alms,
do not blow a trumpet before you,
as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets
to win the praise of others.
Amen, I say to you,
they have received their reward.
But when you give alms,
do not let your left hand know what your right is doing,
so that your almsgiving may be secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you pray,
do not be like the hypocrites,
who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners
so that others may see them.
Amen, I say to you,
they have received their reward.
But when you pray, go to your inner room,
close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you fast,
do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.
They neglect their appearance,
so that they may appear to others to be fasting.
Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you fast,
anoint your head and wash your face,
so that you may not appear to be fasting,
except to your Father who is hidden.
And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”

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