Unashamably Christian — Ash Wednesday at the School

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 Christ and His teachings before others because we’re afraid of what they might think of us.

The hypocrites who pray to be seen by others limit their rewards, but if we deny Christ lose our rewards entirely. I’ve touched on this topic twice before from this ambo, as recently as three weeks ago, but I feel that it is important for me to emphasize it, and that it’s important for you to hear it. 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 Lent, let us begin to put God first; in our prayers, in our penances, and in our personal relationships.

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? Well then, you’re someone who needs to leave it there until it wipes away on its own.

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

Are you someone who will have more to say in gratitude to God after Mass this morning than is allowed by the eight seconds before your pew starts clearing-out? Well, then you need to stay in your pew to say what your heart wants to say as long as you need to say it (without, of course, being late to class.)

Now, these are not examples of performing righteous deeds so that others may see you.  This is doing the right thing even if others might happen to see you doing it.

If you’re self-conscious about other people seeing your devotion to the Lord (for instance at Mass) do not pray that you would be invisible to them; ask that they would invisible to you and continue as you would.

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 on a lampstand, where it gives 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 us begin to love and serve the Lord in the world. This Lent, let’s begin to shine.

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