Gospel Meditations and Prayers for Lent - Ash Wednesday
By Peter Mason
Feb 10, 2016
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.
“So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
“And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
The Age of the Selfie
What fun it is to turn on your cell phone or tablet and catch a glimpse of your dearest relative or favourite Facebook friend, grinning back at you, looking chic, and ready for action. We find it a great medium to connect us with our children and grandkids, with friends near and abroad, and with all sorts of fascinating situations and circumstances. Of course they control what we see, and usually they are selective in their postings.
I find a couple of selfie subjects of particular interest as we enter the season of Lent – clergy and their costumes, and gourmet dinners guaranteed to suck drool from the mouths of the most abstemious among us. As a retired bishop I have more than my share of episcopal haberdashery now mostly stored in a basement closet. Over the years I have worn them at great festivals as well as during solemn observances. With a proper attitude ornate vestments, along with soaring gothic churches and stained glass windows can reflect the glorious beauty of Almighty God. But I have to guard against the temptation to say “Look at me in all my gold and purple finery.” The same goes for fine dining. I expect we Facebookies will be treated to plates of pancakes and baskets of buns as we munch our way through Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday.
Today’s gospel text invites us to examine our motives as we fulfill such Christian duties as giving, praying, and fasting. We take delight in living out these obligations because we long to glorify God; if others notice us at all, we hope they will be encouraged to do the same. And God notices – our attitudes as well as our actions; indeed without benefit of our ‘selfies’ God sees us as we are, and through Jesus Christ, God loves, pardons, absolves, and restores us to Himself – warts, dust, and all.
our lives are laid open before you;
Rescue us from the chaos of sin
and through the death of your Son
bring us healing and make us whole
in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
By Principal Peter Mason
Bishop Peter Mason is the current interim Principal of Wycliffe College. Previously he was Bishop of the Diocese of Ontario, and before that he was the real Principal of Wycliffe. Peter and his wife Carmen have three adult children, four grandsons, and a sweet Sheltie dog named Charlotte.