I didn't think too much about it as I explained it to the kids, other than that it is good advice heading into Lent. It is a time when Catholic everywhere are organized in their fasting, and I guess it could be tempting to find out what everyone else is doing, to see who is making the bigger sacrifice. I just won't do that, I'll keep between God and I. Lesson learned.
Only later in the day did I realize that God was speaking to me on a much deeper level with this reading. Because while I don't often find myself tooting my own horn looking for praise, I do on far too many occasions expect the kids to somehow realize how hard I work, and to offer some kind of reward (like say, not tearing apart the family room for the third time today!) Too many times in my anger I find myself listing all the things I do every day to them, expecting that maybe if they just knew how hard I work, they would be happy to lighten my load. Anyone who is a parent knows that this doesn't matter - they can't understand it. They are not grownups.
I remember one time when I was in my teens, and my poor exasperated mother was having a similar conversation with me about my less-than-stellar performance on my chores. "I just want you to care about keeping this house clean," I remember her saying. And my response in all my teenaged wisdom was, "I'm sorry, but I don't care about it as much as you." I wasn't trying to be smart, just to explain that to me it really didn't make as much of a difference as it did to her. I did, however, promise that I would try harder for her sake, because I loved her and didn't want her to be so distressed by my lack of effort. Now as a mother myself, how can I expect my little ones (seven and under) to have more enthusiasm than I did in my teens?
So, my personal challenge this Lent is going to be to carry the burden of endless and repetitive housework quietly, and offer it as a prayer to God. I will, of course, continue to hold the kids to high standards when it comes to cleaning up after themselves. But I will not try to justify my day to them. Instead, I will turn to my Father - who sees in secret, and will reward me.
Happy Shrove Tuesday. May your Lenten journey towards Easter be a blessed one.
|Matthew 6: 1 - 6, 16 - 18|
|1||"Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.|
|2||"Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.|
|3||But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,|
|4||so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.|
|5||"And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.|
|6||But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.|
|16||"And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.|
|17||But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,|
|18||that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.|