Christian and Unashamed — Ash Wednesday at the Parish

In today’s Gospel, Jesus warns us against giving so that others see us giving, against praying so that others see us praying, and against fasting so that others see us fasting. Yet, I don’t think that showy religiosity is where the danger lies for us.

In Jesus’ day, the popular culture proudly believed in God and respected religious piety. Hence, those people were tempted to publically flaunt their acts of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving and thereby gain the respect and praise of others. But today, in our secularized culture, the temptation is to do the opposite, and to do something far worse. We are tempted to deny our faith in Jesus and teachings before others because we’re afraid of what they might think of us.

The hypocrites Jesus spoke of, who pray to be seen by others, merely limit their prayers’ reward, but if we deny Christ before others we lose our rewards entirely. For Jesus tells us:

“Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” “Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.”

This is why the early Christians went to the lions rather than to deny Christ, and it was their courageous witness to Him that conquered the pagan culture which surrounded them.

This Lent, let us begin to practice putting the Lord before men. For instance, are you someone who will be so embarrassed by having an smudge of ash on your forehead that you’ll want to wash it off the first chance you get? If so, then you should leave it there until it wipes away on its own.

Are you are someone who sees good deeds that just call out to be done but pass them by because of your peers would see you doing them? Then you need to bite the bullet and start doing those hard-good-deeds anyways.

Are you someone who is self-conscious about other people seeing you pray, here at Church, at work, or when your family goes out to a restaurant? Then you need to make it a point to pray, and when you do, do not ask that God would make you invisible; ask Him that other people would become invisible to you and then pray to Him as from your heart.

Now, these are not examples of performing righteous deeds so that others may see you. This is about doing the right thing even if others might happen to see you do it. This Lent, let us begin to love and serve our eternal Lord amidst a world which is destined to become dust.

You are called to be the light of the world. People do not light a candle and then put a bucket over it; it is set it high up, where it can give light for everyone. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father. This Lent, let’s begin to shine.

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