ASH WEDNESDAY, YEAR A
1ST March 2017
Joel 2:12-18; 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18.
Today we begin a forty-day journey of the period of lent. It is a time we turn to God through fasting, prayer and almsgiving. The readings that are repeated each year deepen our understanding and special approach to God through these three means. At the end of this period, a significant change is anticipated both in life style and approach to reality in general. When the period of lent is viewed in connection with the evil mechanism operative in this world, our keyword is consciousness. Consciousness in linked with authenticity in the sense that reality is not altered.
From the gospel passage of today, we see a similar warning from Jesus Christ to his disciples. Be careful not to parade your good deeds before men to attract their notice. Jesus Christ invites us to be conscious of our actions in order not to fall victim of the evil mechanism that operates in the world. Consciousness is always consciousness of something. Every conscious action has a motivating intention. The intention determines the action. Consciousness keeps the intention of the action intact. According to Jesus Christ, we lose our reward when the intention does not correspond with the action. ‘…by doing this you will lose all reward from your Father in heaven’.
The three actions of almsgiving, prayer and fasting, by their very nature are actions directed to God. Although they may at some point benefit others, as it is with almsgiving, they are actions that exist between God and man. When prayer is made at the street corners to win people’s admiration, it seizes to be prayer! There is no communication between the ‘prayer’ and God. No one engages in a serious personal discussion with a friend at street corners to win admiration from others. Prayer is made to God in the secret place of our room, our heart. What we communicate in prayer is personal, even when the prayer point is of social benefit.
The mechanism that operates in this world will always feed on our lack of consciousness in order to lure us away from the proper intentions of our actions. We live in a society that praises hypocrisy, and this has led to all forms of pretense. Most often we do not even notice the ‘self-destructive’ intention of our actions. The social media, in addition to its benefits, gives us the opportunity to present ourselves in ‘who’ we are not. We realize only when we are plunged into crisis or when we are not involved, as is the case with rivalry. Consciousness is the greatest weapon against the mechanism that we battle in the world. Consciousness is achieved when prayer is made with the right intention and in the secret place of our hearts. Consciousness is what we need in order to achieve the goal of almsgiving and fasting. Consciousness restores the authenticity that hypocrisy destroyed. We need to be conscious that we are in the period of lent in order to make the best of it.
Anthony Ekpunobi, CM.