Ash Wednesday Gospel Meditation

February 14, 2018            

How many points is your Lenten resolution?  Keeping score in mundane tasks is the theory behind “gamification,” a technology trend that builds reward systems in unlikely places.  Earn points for how many miles you run, how many coffees you buy, how many tasks you check off in your to-do-app.  Advance through the levels and achieve a new status!  Unlock new benefits!

In this passage, Jesus warns against these attitudes infiltrating our spiritual life.  Every Lent, we set new goals for spiritual growth.  We fast from sweets, prayerfully read from a daily devotional, or donate to new charities.  It’s important for those close to us to know our Lenten resolutions; they can help encourage us to stay committed to them.  But in a world where every achievement can be shared on social media, Jesus offers different advice: “do not blow a trumpet,” “pray to your Father in secret,” “wash your face so that you may not appear to be fasting.”   We learn that – for those who show off their spiritual commitments – “they have already received their reward.”

As we enter this Lenten season, Jesus isn’t saying we should hide our faith or keep our spirituality private.  Throughout the Gospels we are called to a radical transformation of life, an imitation of Jesus that impacts everything we do.  Lent invites us to purify our motives and deepen our faith with an undivided heart.  Our virtuous deeds, prayers, and giving aren’t achievements to check off to appease God, attain the next spiritual level, or chip away, minute-by-minute, our time in Purgatory.  Our Lenten actions ought to flow from a heart seeking to grow closer to God and to image his love to the world.

By all means, set Lenten resolutions!  Share them openly among family and friends.  But remember why we enter the Lenten season: to seek God with our whole heart.

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