Today's Gospel, Matthew 23:1-12 is pretty straightforward for Jesus. No parables, no lofty references, just a clear message: "...but do not follow their example. For they preach, but they do not practice."
The scribes and Pharisees preached the Jewish law but failed to follow it. They preferred their works to be seen by many rather than simply done. They made certain that everyone understood the difficult rules in place for them, but made no effort to help their fellow man try and attain holiness. In short, they were hypocrites.
Our society is flooded with men and women like the Pharisees. I'll even admit that there have been times I have been one. Posting one thing and opting for a Netflix and jammies kind of Sunday instead of a get-up and go worship kind of Sunday. In particular, social media has enabled us to show one thing and do another and leave none the wiser. From celebrities to Insta-moms to our best friend from middle school, what they show us has been carefully curated to exhibit a certain of persona.
The Gospel also warns us that hypocrisy runs deeper than saying one thing and doing another. The intention behind what you do is equally important. If you are giving because others can see you give, that is as good as not giving at all. If you volunteer to coach a basketball team because you love where it will seat you (an "in" with a certain group or person), then you aren't really volunteering to serve, are you?
Start giving up your hypocrisy today by answering honestly why you do what you do. Try to find a way to make your intentions mindful and purposeful, rather than self-serving. But before you do any of that, admit that you cannot do it alone, "Lord, I need you."
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Last week, I established that the purpose of abstaining during Lent is to replicate the desert that Jesus and other holy men and women choose for themselves when they need to become closer to God. In a Biblical sense, the desert is used to describe wilderness, or a lack of civilization and society. You can read about it here. Today, when we abstain, we fast from meat on Fridays or give up our daily coffee to remind ourselves that we are not of this world. As Christians, we are also not of this society.
Today, society praises the fiercely independent. The woman who needs no man, the man who needs to help. At a young age, we are highly praised for doing it "all by yourself!" However, as those called to be the daughters of the King, we are not called to be Miss Independents; we are called to be Miss Dependent. Today's readings are a reminder of this.
"I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears." Psalm 34:4-5
Part of believing in God is trusting in what God can and will do for you. When life crashes in, we do not have to confront our hardships alone. There is a great, loving God who wants desperately to walk alongside us and through it. All we have to do is reach out and admit that we cannot do it alone.
Give up your independence today right now by praying in your heart (or aloud), "Lord, I need you."