Matthew 6:1-6,16-18 for Ash Wednesday.
In this Gospel, Christ says our Father will recompense, reward, or repay us when we offer the secret, righteous deeds of almsgiving, prayer and fasting for our Father alone.
Prayer deals with our Father.
Almsgiving deals with my neighbor.
Fasting deals with my own self.
Our Father, my neighbor, my self— the three kinds of personal relationship I can have.
Although fasting, almsgiving and prayer turn in three different directions— myself, my neighbor, my God— Christ says our Father will repay them only if my goal in all three directions is our Father alone.
Our Father does not repay when I show off my fasting, my alms or my prayer so that others will pat me on the back.
Even letting “your left hand know what your right is doing” is another way of saying “patting your own self on the back.”
Christ underscores secrecy in our seeking the Father.
Today’s Gospel is a three-part litany of secrecy with the Father in almsgiving, secrecy with the Father in prayer and secrecy with the Father in fasting.
It has all the makings of intimacy.
When I secretly give alms, I make myself materially vulnerable and avoid having others support my vulnerability by patting me on the back.
Christ tells me to offer my material vulnerability secretly to the Father for his support alone.
When I pray all by myself, I avoid the social support of neighbors, so I am socially vulnerable.
Christ tells me to offer my social vulnerability secretly to the Father for his support alone.
When I fast, I make myself physically vulnerable.
Christ tells me to offer my physical vulnerability secretly to the Father for his support alone.
Secret almsgiving, prayer and fasting— material, social and physical vulnerability in secret with the Father— these are the all-embracing, natural and supernatural makings for real and deep intimacy with God.
In his own Body and Blood, Christ makes himself vulnerable materially, socially and physically.
In the Eucharistic Sacrifice of his Body and Blood, Christ makes himself into a saving alms for our poverty, into a prayer interceding for us to the Father, and even into a fast-unto-death-on-the-cross that he offers on our behalf to the Father.
By raising him from the dead, and exalting him to his side in the intimate depths and heights of heaven, our Father has repaid Christ for his vulnerability.
If we follow Christ in his intimate pursuit of our heavenly Father, we open ourselves to begin to receive even now the same repayment Christ received: being intimately at home with our heavenly Father.
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be. [Matthew 6:19-21]
Turn. Love. Repeat.