Jesus continues his Sermon on the Mount today. We have been graced thus far with the teachings of the Beatitudes, being salt and light, as well as the six antithesis we have been reflecting upon over the past week. Today, Jesus presents common practices of living a life of faith. The key point he is making though has again to do with our end goal. As discussed yesterday, as his disciples we are called to be “perfect just as [our] heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48). Again perfection here is that our telios, or end goal, is to be one with God. We are striving to become holy, to be saints, for the purpose of deepening our bond and relationship with God.
Our being perfected in Jesus is a process whereby we become less and Jesus becomes more. What decreases is our focus on self, especially the ego self, our sense of self-centeredness. Jesus provides for us three ways in which we can practice drawing closer into communion with God and one another. We are to give alms, pray, and fast. We may remember these being the three pillars of Lent that we put extra emphasis on during that penitential season.
Jesus cautions his disciples and us. When we can give alms, pray, and fast, our intent must be properly ordered. If we give alms with the intention to “win the praise of others” (Mt 6:2), pray in a public display “so that others may see” us (Mt 6:5), and in our fasting “look gloomy” and “neglect [our] appearance, so [we] may appear to others to be fasting” (Mt 6:16), we are hypocrites, because in each of these actions, we are not seeking to improve our relationship with God, nor to build up his kingdom. The intent is to build up our own pride and ego, the focus is on us.
We are called to give of ourselves to others in a service of love, so that others may be empowered, strengthened, and grow in their faith life, so they too may join us in building up God’s kingdom. We are to seek Jesus in prayer with the intent of receiving the purifying fire of the Holy Spirit that we may be purged of that which feeds our false self so we can be freed of the dross of our accumulated sin, our imperfections, and that which we are attached to. In our time of prayer and examination of conscience, Jesus reveals to us that which we have an unhealthy attachment too, that which keeps our focus on ourselves instead of God. It is to these areas that we can fast from. In this act of the will, we choose God over self and continue to mature into who he calls us to be.
May we make some time to pray today and ask Jesus to reveal to us where it is that we are putting ourselves before God, what patterns and habits of sin keep us bound to our own pride and prejudices, and what is it that we are attached to, again that is enslaving us and keeping us from being free to be who God calls us to be. Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving is not only for Lent. There are many people that need God’s support and help right now. We are to be his hands and feet.
Let us not be hypocrites, but disciples. May we listen to our consciences, resist the temptation of indifference, and pray for the those unjustly detained and separated. May we also seek through action how we may be of help to so many being interned and caged. May we pray and serve to counteract the no tolerance policy enacted by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. We need to speak up for the many who do not have a voice, and call out these actions of President Trump and his administration for what they are: sinful, inhumane, degrading and immoral.
Using the Bible to support dehumanization was done to condone slavery, and it was used to justify the tearing away of native American children from their parents. That the Trump administration would do so again is nauseating and infuriating. Also, not allowing reporters or congressional representatives in to these camps to report on the conditions of our brothers and sisters, infants and children taken and isolated from their parents and being kept in secret locations is unconscionable and dictatorial.
Let us pray and act. I posted yesterday, June 20, a link from Fr. James Martin on my Facebook page highlighting options of steps we can be engaged in to provide help. Please pray and act as you feel led by God to do so. This policy can be stopped by President Trump today. The separation of parents and their children must stop today. The reuniting of those families separated must begin today.
Photo: credit Getty/John Moore accessed:
Link for the Mass readings for Wednesday, June 20, 2018: