Jesus commands men to give alms to the poor, to pray and to fast. Every Catholic man can grow in happiness by building the Virtue of Sacrifice so he can make a challenging Lenten vow and by growing in the Virtue of Fortitude so he can have the strength to fulfill his Lenten vow.
Ash Wednesday – Wednesday – Mt 6:1-6, 16-18
Continuing with the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus confirms the importance of the long-held practices (almsgiving, prayer and fasting) of Religion (a part of Justice) which draw men to God and authoritatively rebukes hypocrites who seek self-glorification from others through prideful “religious” acts which are conspicuously done to be seen and praised by others.
Jesus affirms how disciples are to humbly and privately perform each practice to draw closer to God and receive rewards from Him. Beginning with the need to provide for the poor and suffering, Jesus directs His disciples to secretly give alms to the poor; alms (from Latin, meaning “pity, mercy”) are usually a gift of money to those who cry out in their suffering. Jesus also confirms the importance of prayer, emphasizing the need for each man to enter into deep private prayer with God, as He demonstrated numerous times (Mt 14:23; Mk 1:35). Jesus finishes by emphasizing the need to fast, promising that God sees and rewards humble fasting.
Jesus condemns the false religious acts of the hypocrites who make a public spectacle of almsgiving, prayer and fasting, to bring attention to themselves; those who seek public glory for pious acts lose their Heavenly reward. Jesus does not condemn public acts which draw men together in God: He desires for men to do good deeds to proclaim His Name (Mt 5:16); Jesus and His Holy Catholic Church emphasize the practice of communal prayer (Mt 18:20; Acts 1:12-14); the Holy Catholic Church has appointed days of communal fasting.
Be awed by Jesus Christ
Be awed by Jesus as He commands men as to how to perform spiritually productive acts of Religion (a part of Justice): Son of God, Jesus speaks with absolute Authority to correct long-established, but incorrectly taken, acts of Religion; Divine King, Jesus Courageously (a part of Fortitude) Condemns the false religious acts of the powerful, Harshly calling them hypocrites (pretenders) for their vain and false religious practices; Divine Priest, Jesus reveals how to properly Sacrifice (a part of Justice) when Giving Alms (a Corporal Work of Mercy), praying, and fasting.
Make a challenging Lenten vow to sacrifice
Realize: Lent (meaning “long days”) is the ancient 40-day liturgical pilgrimage beginning with Ash Wednesday (ashes reminding of unavoidable death) in preparation for Easter, and eternal life in Christ. Lent recalls Jesus’ 40 days of fasting and prayer in the desert in preparation for public ministry; every Catholic man is called to deep repentance and to prayer and fasting during Lent and to remember that a man’s life is short and he must do his best to serve God during the days he has been blessed to have.
Believe: Renew your understanding of Lent (CCC 540, 1007, 1095, 1438).
Pray: Jesus, Crucified Christ, help me build the Virtue of Sacrifice (a part of Justice) so I heroically set aside my desires for comfort and self-indulgence and make a strenuous Lenten vow so I might in a small way imitate Your Supreme Sacrifice of the Cross and draw closer to You.
Seek Fortitude to keep your Lenten vow
Realize: Every Catholic man should enter into Lent by praying, fasting and attending the Ash Wednesday Mass.
Believe: Reflect upon the Call and Types of Prayer (CCC 2623-2649) and on Fasting (CCC 538, 1434, 2043).
Pray: Jesus, Perfection of Virtue, help me build the Virtue of Fortitude so I courageously persevere in keeping my Lenten vow, pray daily, and deny myself by fasting (an act of Mortification, consistent with my vocation, health and age) and draw nearer to You during Lent.