I explained that a good lent practice involves three things: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. I pasted out three by five cards and asked them to write down the three things they were doing as part of their Lenten practice: one for each area of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. For example, I am thinking about giving up red meat and alcohol, I will say and extra rosary each day and I will give a determined amount of money to the poor box each Friday.
Then we went on to the readings for today.
“If you were going to preach a homily this Sunday,” I asked, “what would be the message you would want to give our parishioners?” They responded by saying, “Don’t worry about material things, only about getting into heaven.”
I went on to agree with them, but there is a slight caveat here. Matthew in chapter 6 is presuming that the person Jesus is talking to is in fact living chapter 5. Chapter 5 of Matthew contains the Sermon on the Mount, you remember the Beatitudes and the saying, “You are the salt of the earth and a light for the nations.” Chapter five is an exhortation to keep your heart ignited with the salt of fire that will light up other souls for Jesus.
So, if I am living Chapter Five, I don’t have to worry about what I am to wear or what I am to eat, because the Kingdom of Heaven will be the most important goal of my life.
But if I’m not living Chapter 5, then what? Then I have to worry because my real goal in life is not to get to heaven. My real goal is material things.
I went on to explain. It’s like a math quiz. I may want to get a 100 on this quiz, but if I don’t study for it, don’t think for a minute the teacher is just going to let you pass because you got a zero. If you deserve a zero, you get a zero.
Same in the Kingdom of God; I may want to go to heaven, but if I really don’t do anything to get there, if I don’t live what Jesus prescribes in Chapter 5, then I’m not going there. When I do nothing to merit Glory in Heaven, I chose not to go there.
So really, Jesus is challenging us to go back over the readings and start living better Chapters 5 and 6. Saint Paul says, “for he will bring light to what is hidden in darkness and will manifest the real motives of our hearts.”