“He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39)
In the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus is portrayed as the fulfillment of the Jewish Scriptures, the long-awaited Messiah who stands at the intersection of salvation history. As a respected rabbi, he is shown to teach with authority and creativity. Matthew contains five large teaching discourses: the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. ch. 5–7), the instructions for mission (ch. 10), the great sermon in parables (ch. 13), the instructions for living as church (ch. 18), and a final discourse on the end times (ch. 24–25).
Perhaps most pointedly, in Matthew, Jesus is Emmanuel (God with us). This title is introduced at the birth of Jesus (1:23), and reinforced at the close of the Gospel where the risen Jesus commissions his followers and promises, “I am with you always, until the end of the age” (28:20).
Now to start out our Lenten journey we always begin with the Gospel of Matthew chapter 6.
“Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them…” (Mt. 6:1)
Now, when we get ashes we are not publicly proclaiming our greatness, but God’s. We are not saying, “look at how great I am,” but “ask me about how great my God is!” The ashes are not meant to draw attention to ourselves but to the one who died for us.
As I was reading the Gospel my attention was drawn to the call of Matthew in Matthew 9:9
As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.
As I reflected on this verse, I wondered what was going through Matthew’s mind. I have heard this many times before, and it always strikes me how Matthew follows Jesus so easily. Once again I was struck by the simplicity of the event. Jesus says, “Follow me,” and Matthew immediately follows Jesus.
Maybe I should stop looking for reasons and excuses to doubt and hesitate. As I continue to struggle with putting my full trust in the Lord, Jesus continues to show me the need to trust him. Instead of trying to convince myself that Matthew hesitated to trust Jesus, I need to follow his example of following Jesus. It is difficult to always say “yes” to follow Him because I am afraid that He and I have different ideas of what is best for me. But in responding to His call to follow Him, as Matthew did, I have to say that I trust Him. I must trust that God is a lot smarter than me, so He most certainly knows what I need.
In the end, realize that when we go to Mass, get ashes, or fast on Fridays, it is never to bring attention to ourselves but that our witness will absolutely bring attention to God. So consider yourself a work in progress, an unworthy sinner in need of a Savior and striving for sainthood. The ashes are not a sign of pride but of humility. Humbly acknowledge your sin and then seek God’s mercy and follow Him, daily.
Fabiola Navichoque – Writer, unparalleled love