Today’s readings are here.
Today’s Gospel considers three important areas of our lives: almsgiving, prayer, and fasting. Some people might immediately object that these three things are now very rare even among Christians, and perhaps are more fashionable only at certain special times of the year, such as Lent. However, I am convinced that the three actions that the Gospel proposes are actually the roots of three fundamental attitudes of human living.
Almsgiving is our ability to love others in their needs, in their necessities; it means loving them precisely when they are most fragile, miserable, and alone. Prayer is our ability to emerge from our individualism to radically direct ourselves toward an encounter with the One who destroys our loneliness and isolation. It means becoming aware of God and not just of ourselves. Fasting is the assertion of our freedom in the territory that’s most difficult for us to conquer: the territory of ourselves. Therefore, loving others, emerging from the solitude of our self, and affirming our freedom are three things that will never be obsolete in Christian life.
Jesus says in today’s Gospel that there is one attitude that destroys these three precious things: concern for appearances—loving in order to be seen, praying to be seen, fasting to be seen. What today’s Gospel asks of us is vigilance regarding why we love, pray, or fast.
If we find ourselves acting in order to cultivate appearances, we should not despair. We just need to understand that this must be our greatest conversion: to understand that the Lord (who is the only one who matters!) sees in secret, and needs no appearances, only substance.
Father Luigi Maria Epicoco is a priest of the Aquila Diocese of Italy and teaches Philosophy at the Pontifical Lateran University and at the ISSR ‘Fides et ratio,’ Aquila. He dedicates himself to preaching, especially for the formation of laity and religious, giving conferences, retreats and days of recollection. He has authored numerous books and articles. Since 2021, he has served as the Ecclesiastical Assistant in the Vatican Dicastery for Communication and columnist for the Vatican’s daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.
Aleteia is proud to offer this commentary on the readings for daily Mass, in collaboration with Fr. Epicoco.