Commentary on the Gospel of
With Ash Wednesday lent begins! We enter the season specially marked ‘the gracious moment’. It is a period each Christian is more intimately united with our Lord and God. And from this intimacy flows abundance of charity – all effected without orchestrations! And so, we hear: pray in private; give alms in secret; and fast with brightly anointed head. The three spiritual attitudes that mark the Lenten season are encouraged to be lived in exclusive union with God – who alone notices them.
Pray in private! What an invitation to be alone with the Lord!! Prayer, our dialogue with God, involves heart to heart contact; self-exposure, self-disclosure to God – telling my God how I am and allowing quality time to listen to Him, quality time to just be in God’s presence as a friend with the friend. Jesus in the gospel according to St. John calls us his friends. One of the deepest longings of a true friend is to stay with the friend; it does not matter what the sharing with the friend might be focused on. What gives the deepest fulfilment is being present to and with the friend. The Lenten season invites us to strengthen this relational union with our Lord and God. In this privileged moment of prayer, moment of drawing strength from the Lord, the Christian enjoys the Lord’s compassionate touch and goes forth to share the same. And so, one goes to reach out in charity.
‘Give alms in secret’, our Lord tells us. Christian almsgiving is the fruit of internalized virtue of charity – a compassionate disposition to generously share with the needy. It is about self-giving in imitation of our Lord Jesus Christ who lays down his life for our sake, even when we were sinners! The spirituality of the Lenten season encourages us to sacrificially reach out to others meekly, that is, without blowing trumpet to attract others’ admiration and praise.
Fasting produces nourishment for the other! Giving alms, linked to sacrifice, flows from the fruit of one’s fasting! An act of mortification, that is, depriving oneself of some values, consequently, saved for reaching out to the other. And so, one opts to eat a half meal or abstains from drinking for the purpose of giving the savings from such abstention to others who are in need. In other word, fasting is goal-oriented: reaching out in love! Drawing from our closeness with the Lord, we share our blessing with the needy. O God, help us to always readily reach out in love, through Christ our Lord, amen.