The readings today reflect a dichotomy that we so often see – are we doing the right thing for the right reasons or the wrong ones? One might say that doing the right thing is good unto itself, and it is, but there is more to it than seeking an earthly reward. Do the people in the readings fast only when everyone is looking by outwardly displaying their self-sacrifice? Or do they carry on with their day’s work and keep their sacrifices in their hearts? These questions generate two distinct thoughts – one, a call to reflect the light of God in our actions without seeking glory for ourselves and one a call for compassion for those who may be sacrificing something not outwardly evident.
In the throes of a difficult assignment or a troubled relationship, the tendency can often be to complain, give up or become angry. All of these are overt manifestations of the sacrificing of self to do the right thing. Instead, making an attempt to have the challenge be an opportunity for quiet prayerful discernment may just be the ticket to unraveling these readings.
Especially when things get busy, we tend to go into survival mode and it becomes a self-centered existence. In those moments, we can benefit from looking around and seeing if someone around us may be struggling more or differently - perhaps something small, like a note or a candy bar will brighten a day. It is this compassion that we are called to tap in to. It can often be silence that is reflective of someone else’s self-sacrifices or personal struggles.
This Lent, let us all strive to do the right things for the right reasons and to remember to be compassionate toward one another, especially when it is most difficult to do so.