“So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so they may be praised by others.” Mt. 6:2
The other day, as I entered the church office, I threw my hands up in the air and proudly announced, “I’m here!” The volunteer women working in the office gave me a strange look. They were not really sure how to react. Seeing their confusion, I decided to continue, “What? No trumpet sounds? No streamers or confetti? No shouts of praise that your spiritual leader has arrived?” They laughed and said something to the effect the celebration got stalled in a committee. But, I could tell in their heads they were thinking, “What have we gotten ourselves into?”
Truthfully, I was just in a good mood and was glad to be coming to work. What the women in the office couldn’t have known, I spent the morning reading this scripture passage. It will be the focus of my Ash Wednesday sermon. When I’m in a good mood I laugh. My favorite form of humor is irony. A form of humor very few people grasp. For example, one of my favorite jokes I share is, “Humility. I’m great at that, I once won an award for it.” Invariably, someone gives me a lecture about how that doesn’t sound very humble.
My humor is also a mask I wear. It helps me cope with the overwhelming anxiety I carry and the brutal way I judge myself. People who experience my humor think I am a person who doesn’t take anything serious. The truth is the exact opposite. I’m extremely intense. My intensity is often overwhelming to the people around me and it wreaks havoc on my soul.
The point is, our external persona does not always accurately reflect the depth of our soul. This is true of every living being, not just me. I think Jesus is drawing our attention to this reality in this teaching. Beware of practicing your piety before others is a warning for those who think their actions heal wounds. What heals wounds and causes the soul to leap for joy is a genuine and intimate conversation with God. Only God knows what that looks like. Lent is an invitation to look deep within yourself to see the source of your life, a loving God.
Click to read: Matthew 6: 1-6
- Where do you find joy in life?
- How do you mask your pain?
- When have you had a deep, intimate conversation with God?
- When have you avoided this conversation with God?
- What would you share with God, if God was sitting in front of you asking to better know you?
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