Today’s gospel challenges us to live our lives based upon impressing only one person: God.
Jesus is addressing the Pharisees who live their lives to impress each other: quoting scripture, praying in public, giving gifts in the temple for all to see – but then having no love for sinners or anyone not like them. The Pharisees looked to each to provide testimony on the virtuous lives they were living.
Jesus tells them, and us, that testimony from humans is inaccurate and the only important witness in our lives is God. Lent always begins with a gospel asking us to pray, fast and give alms – and to do so in the privacy of our rooms so God can see our good acts, but no one else can.
Do we live our lives to gain the outward praise of others or the quiet praise of God?
We all want to be liked and seek admiration from others – this is fine as long as we are acting according to God’s commandments. If God is proud of our life, many others will be as well.
But it is easy to let our pride get in the way and to do things to please others which may not please God. We may gossip or criticize good people to win the friendship of someone. We may feel pressured to do things we don’t necessarily feel comfortable doing, giving into peer pressure when we know it is wrong. The more we try to please others, the more apt we are to follow their rule book and not God’s.
When my wife and I taught religious education to St. Raphael high school students, we would advise them to remember that Jesus was with them on all their dates – so don’t do anything that you would not be proud to do if Jesus was sitting next to you. Without Jesus, we are likely to do something we will regret later.
Jesus commands us to be perfect as He is perfect. We are all sinners and are unable to achieve perfection, but that should not stop us from trying. We should always attempt to be the person Christ wants us to be. When we are uncertain how to act in a particular situation, pray for guidance and ask ourselves what would Jesus do? Then boldly do it.
The more we ground our lives in God, the more peaceful we become.
May God bless each of you and grant you peace this Lenten season.
– Deacon Dan