MATTHEW 6:1-6, 16-18
JESUS said to his disciples: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”
PRAY TO YOUR FATHER IN SECRET. When we pray, Jesus says, it should not be for show. Nor should it be to gain favor or approval from others, as hypocrites do. Prayer is something personal, between the disciple and God. It is more rewarding if the disciple prays undistracted by inordinate clamor for attention.
Like prayer, almsgiving and fasting should be done in secret. They should not be self-serving.
While Jesus recommends going to our inner room in prayer, he does not devalue public or community prayer. In fact, our example may inspire others to pray as well. The liturgy, says Vatican II, “is the outstanding means whereby the faithful may express in their lives, and manifest to others, the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church. It is of the essence of the Church that she be both human and divine, visible and yet invisibly equipped, eager to act and yet intent on contemplation, present in this world and yet not at home in it” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 2).
Still, Jesus’ admonition holds. Even liturgical prayer cannot become pompous, done for show and overly concerned with such externals as decorations, flowers, incense, and candles.
SOURCE: “365 Days with the Lord 2018,” ST. PAULS Philippines, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail: [email protected]; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.