Meditation: Why did Jesus single out prayer, fasting, and almsgiving for his disciples? The Jews considered these three as the cardinal works of the religious life. These were seen as the key signs of a pious person, the three great pillars on which the good life was based. Jesus pointed to the heart of the matter. Why do you pray, fast, and give alms? To draw attention to yourself so that others may notice and think highly of you? Or to give glory to God?
True piety and devotion to God
The Lord warns his disciples of self-seeking glory - the preoccupation with looking good and seeking praise from others. True piety is something more than feeling good or looking holy. True piety is loving devotion to God. It is an attitude of awe, reverence, worship and obedience. It is a gift and working of the Holy Spirit that enables us to devote our lives to God with a holy desire to please him in all things (Isaiah 11:1-2).
Completely united with God our Father
What is the sure reward which Jesus points out to his disciples? It is union with God our Father. In him alone we find the fullness of life and happiness, truth and beauty, love and joy. Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD) wrote the following prayer in his Confessions: When I am completely united to you, there will be no more sorrows or trials; entirely full of you, my life will be complete.
The Lord rewards those who seek him with humble and repentant hearts. He renews us each day and he gives us new hearts of love and compassion that we may serve him and our neighbor with glad and generous hearts. Do you want to grow in your love for God and for your neighbor? Seek him expectantly in prayer, with fasting, and in generous giving to those in need.
“Lord Jesus, give me a lively faith, a firm hope, a fervent charity, and a great love for you. Take from me all lukewarmness in meditating on your word, and dullness in prayer. Give me fervor and delight in thinking of you and your grace. Fill my heart with compassion for others, especially those in need, that I may respond with generosity.”
This reflection is courtesy of Don Schwager, whose website is located at: http://www.rc.net/wcc/readings/