February 13, 2010
I Can See You
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18 “When you pray, go to your inner room”
A confused disciple went to his master and begged him for enlightenment. And the master said, “Go and sit in your room, and your room will teach you everything.”
Today we officially begin the Season of Lent. For most of us, Lent is a time to remember how the Son of God willfully offered his life for our salvation. It is a time for us to examine ourselves in the light of God’s love and how we responded or not to His call to righteousness. Lastly, lent is also a time for intense prayer to know more of ourselves and our God.
We remain a mystery to ourselves in spite of our best effort to know ourselves. My self- understanding continues to elude me. Do I really know what I want? There is inner restlessness that is embedded in me. I am never satisfied. I always want more of anything and everything. And in my failure to fully understand myself, I end up endlessly craving for praises from other people, and “what they think” of me defines who I am. Are you affected when no one praises you? Do you feel bad when your work is criticized and not appreciated? Unfortunately, some of our course of action is deeply influenced by what people would say, and not by what we should do for the good of all. This is very frustrating and non-liberating. Slowly, we lost our identity.
Our gospel tells us how Jesus warned his disciples of performing noble things like giving alms, praying and fasting for the sake of winning praise and affirmation. This is a vicious trap. Sometimes we do good works for other people to see, not because this is the right and noble things to do, but because we unconsciously seek praise and adoration from others. Our desire to do charity is tainted with our selfish motivation. And when we allow impure motivation to eat us up and be our main reason for doing good works, we end up empty and tired trying to feed our ego with our unquenchable thirst for praises, honor and glory. We want to be seen always. We want medals, trophies, awards, citations and others. We want to be on the pedestal. The pedestal defines who we are. This is a mirage in the desert of emptiness.
Thus, Jesus is giving us a solution to free ourselves from this vicious trap of craving for praises and honor. He wants us to allow God to exclusively define who we are by going into our inner room where nobody sees us except God. The more we spend time in prayer, the more we detach ourselves from what others would say or think about us or our work. We realize that the praises or negative comments against us have no bearings in the eternal life. Trophies and medals will gather dust and claps will fade away, but the words of Jesus telling us much He loves us will stay and stick through the test of time.
The volunteers in Haiti are slowly packing up their things back to their countries. The thrill of going into the rubble and being seen in CNN news is slowly fading. Haiti is not “hot news” anymore. The real volunteer heroes in this catastrophe will not be seen and would not want to be seen. They are the ones who will eat and sleep with the Haitians on the street tents when CNN’s Anderson Cooper and his new crew would be home for a hot cup of cappuccino.
Today is Ash Wednesday, let’s not just fast and abstain from our skin-deep cravings – ice cream, bacon, cigarettes and wine. We can do better than these things. Start doing noble works for the love of God. Don’t expect anything in return even the words “Thank You.” Grab a time and enter into your inner room. And you will find God is everything you need.
Fr.Willy M. Samson,SJ / Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles / 02/17/10