Jesus encourages not only the practice of prayer, almsgiving and fasting – the pillars of our annual Lenten journey – but more importantly how to and how not to perform these observances. Jesus calls out the “hypocrites” who feign virtue by making a public spectacle of their actions in order to receive recognition and praise. This is their only reward, nothing more. Jesus offers an alternative and teaches his disciples to pray, give alms and fast quietly in “secret,” in their heart and in the presence of God alone. God will “repay” them.
Hypocrites did not vanish with the scribes and Pharisees. They are still visible and active in our world today. So also is the call of Jesus for each of us to act with a humble heart. He challenges us to discover the graces of prayer, charity, mercy and love everyday of our lives.
—Jim Sweany is a Spiritual Director in the Ignatian tradition. He is associated with the Chicago Region Ignatian Volunteer Corps as a Spiritual Animator, reflector and Advisory Board Chair. He also directs the Spiritual Exercises for the SEEL program at Loyola University.