Daily Reflection

From a Creighton Student's Perspective

March 9, 2011

Justin McCarthy

Junior, Medical Anthropology Major

Ash Wednesday
Jl 2:12-18
Ps 51:3-4, 5-6ab, 12-13, 14 and 17
2 Cor 5:20-6:2
Mt 6:1-6, 16-18

“Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.”-Matthew 6:1

Each year Lent stealthily comes upon us. Today’s Gospel is a perfect instruction of how to carry ourselves during the season of Lent, which is marked by our attempts to become more pious. While we all hope for success, that very success can be the undoing of our journey for personal betterment. Contentment often follows success and pride often follows contentment. Matthew 6 concerns piety, and piety has no room for either. It’s important to note that the Gospel isn’t just commanding us to humble ourselves outwardly, but inwardly as well (6:3). Striking the balance between restlessness and pessimism is a hidden challenge of Lent but one that is decisive to successful betterment.

Inevitably, the question will arise, “What are you doing for Lent?” Could we change this question? If you’re like me, you find answering this question to be uncomfortable. Lent is the period of time that Jesus retreated into the desert to face the temptations he was bound to encounter; for this reason we “give up” our own temptations. My Lenten promise is a clandestine struggle of mine. It’s a weakness, habitual sin, or something I feel most obstructs my relationship with God and loving God’s image in my fellow man. Gone are the days of giving up soda and candy; these are inner-turmoil. Ironically, during Jesus’ seclusion in the desert, “giving up” something is never mentioned. To give up something implies that we have a right to that something and are willing to sacrifice that right. What Jesus did, he did for God and his relationship with the Father.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if this Lent no one asked, “What are you giving up?” But rather, we asked of ourselves, “What are you putting in?” Lent should be a season of working towards a deeper relationship with God. Relinquishing sinful behaviors is one thing, but it’s not enough to merely trim the vine; we must also bear fruit (John 15).

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