Tonight I will be attending a Taize prayer service in my parish and offering a brief reflection on the readings. The Gospel reading I selected for tonight’s service is today’s Gospel reading from St. Matthew, which contains Jesus’ instructions on prayer, almsgiving and fasting.
As Catholics will recall, this is a reading we hear at the beginning of Lent every year, since prayer, almsgiving and fasting are viewed as traditional Lenten practices. The inclusion of this reading in a Gospel in the month of June is an important reminder to us that these are not practices reserved for Lent. Rather, all three are fundamental (and therefore year-round) aspects of the lives of all of us who call ourselves Christians.
Almsgiving is not an optional activity. If you have any doubt about that, go back and re-read the judgment passage in the 25th Chapter of Matthew. Jesus is quite clear how the sheep and goat will be separated at the end of the day and it is all about “what you did for the least of these.”
Fasting, other than as part of some crash diet, is not something all that consistent with our consumerist culture, which encourages us to always want and have more. For Christians, fasting is not only an act of solidarity of those without, but an important reminder that the source of our ultimate satisfaction is nothing we can find and accumulate here.
We hopefully need no reminder of the importance of prayer in our lives. But Jesus’ instruction in today’s Gospel to to into our “inner room” is an important reminder of our need every day for quiet time with our God. It is not enough to say “my work is my prayer” or “I recite some prayers while I’m driving in traffic.” Those are both terrific, but they don’t take away from our need for quiet, contemplative time with our God.
Prayer. Almsgiving. Fasting. Practices for every day.