Bishop Glen John Provost

Bishop of Lake Charles

Ash Wednesday

February 18, 2015

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
Lake Charles, Louisiana

“[Y]our Father who sees in secret will repay you.”  Matthew 6:4

This sentence is repeated three times in today’s reading, in these or very similar words.  What does it mean that God “sees in secret” (Matthew 6:4)?  I think it says a great deal to us as we begin Lent.

First of all, if God “sees in secret,” then He knows everything.  He sees not only our works of charity, penance and prayer but also our failings.  He sees everything.  We can hide nothing from Him, good or bad.

Certainly there is plenty of bad we would like to hide.  Our pettiness, selfishness, and offensiveness are known to us and others all too well.  However, they are known to God even more.  While we may have hurt someone badly by our offensive remarks and actions, we have injured God all the more.  He “sees in secret.”

God also sees the good we do.  This is why “goodness is its own reward.”  We do not need acclaim or congratulations.  God “sees in secret.”

For the evil we have done, God gave us the Sacrament of Penance in which we ask forgiveness in Jesus’ name.  In the Sacrament of Penance, we are saying to God, “I know you already know this but in speaking my sins out loud I am letting you know how desperately sorry I am and how much I truly want to change.”  For the good we do, God knows what we have done, even though the left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing (Matthew 6:3).  “And your father who sees what is hidden will repay you” (Matthew 6:18)  That is as much a warning as it is a consolation.

There is more.  If God “sees in secret,” then He is in charge.  We may think we are in charge and hide.  Evil loves to conceal itself.  But God sees everything because He is our creator and master.  We should find this a very liberating thought.  There is freedom in knowing that God, who sees everything, will make all things right.  Mercy is ultimately His to show but so is justice.  As the Scripture so frequently teach, what is hidden will be revealed, what is concealed will be shouted from the rooftops.  This is, as well, a statement on the power of God to make all things right.

In a few moments, we will receive blessed ashes on our foreheads.  We will be reminded that we are dust and to dust we will return.  We cannot hide the ashes.  They are conspicuous and a reminder of our failings and weaknesses.  They are not a proclamation to the world that we are holy.  They are a reminder to us that God indeed “sees in secret.” 

Let us enter Lent with confidence, confidence in an all-knowing God, who punishes evil and rewards goodness, who asks for our obedience.  And He, who sees in secret, will reward us.