Secrecy in Righteousness: Lent Preparation Week Gospel Reading (Mat 6:1-18)
Looking into preparation week’s gospel, we find a manner of secrecy. Mat 6:1 NKJV reads; “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them.”, while a more proper translation, from the Greek, should read; “Take heed that you do not do your righteous deeds (acts of righteousness) before men, to be seen by them.” Mat 6:1 is more of a general statement not only connected to the alms giving but made by the Lord as an introduction to the whole chapter. The point here is to tell us that all our righteous actions should be done in secret, this includes; alms giving, prayers, fasting, serving, prostration, hospital visitations, etc.
Give alms in secrecy, pray in your secret place, and fast in a secret way. Every aspect of our worship should be done in secret. Each intimate conversation the Lord had, with someone in the gospels, was also made in secret. His conversation with Nicodemus was, at night, solely, His conversation with the Samaritan woman was private, with the blind man after healing him was alone, and even with Nathaniel was a conundrum that no one else understood what they were talking about.
It seemed that the Lord wanted this personal, private encounter with everyone and I believe He still does. A secret place has to do with the intent. A prayer in a crowded church could be still done in secret if the intent is to be so, and a closed door for prayers could be as a prayer on the street corners when the intent is to be praised by the people. Every act of righteousness done for God is received by the Lord and rewarded by Him, every righteous act done not for God is wasted. We should cast out every fake element from our lives and be as true as possible especially when it comes to our acts of righteousness. This secret and intimate relationship doesn't happen in our noisy daily lives but requires us to slow down; so that we can carry a meaningful relationship with Christ.
At the beginning of the great fast, I would like to remind everyone that we don’t only change our diet; although that is important, but we work on our spiritual lives, as well. St. Basil reminds us with our spiritual fast, “You do not eat meat, but you devour your brother.” As we begin the fast, we ought to strive against our spiritual weaknesses, even if we don’t start fasting; yet we should take the lent as an opportunity to underfeed and fight against our sins. We need to fast from; flirting, pornography, lust, anger, cursing and cussing, gossip and judging, smoking and alcohol, we should also fast from the noise of Facebook and Instagram, etc. We should fast from our vices with the intent of not going back to them again.
The way we fast is a reminder of the days of the Garden of Eden. First instruction for Adam was not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam was only allowed to eat the fruit and the harvest of the earth, also at the Garden, we see the most intimate relationship with God.
Let’s start our fast with a contrite heart. Let’s pray that God makes known to us the intent of our hearts. And let’s fast not only from food but also from sin. And above all, let’s slow down our lives, so we enter the most valuable conversations with the Lord.