Children's Reading: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
Isaiah's Family Prepares for Spring
What will you give up for Lent?
Jesus told his followers:
Make sure you don't pray or fast or give to the poor, just so others will see you. If you just show off, you will not receive a reward from your Father in heaven.
When you give to the poor, don't blast it around town like the hypocrites do. They show off in synagogues and on street corners so others might admire them. They've already received their reward! Instead, give to the poor so quietly even your best friends won't notice. Your Father who sees how quietly you give will reward you.
When you pray, do not show off like the hypocrites. They love to stand up and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so they will shine before others. They've already received their reward! Instead, go off by yourself and pray to your Father quietly. Your Father who sees how quietly you pray will reward you.
When you fast, don't pretend to look sad like the hypocrites. When they fast, they look dirty on purpose so they will shine before others. They've already received their reward! Instead, when you fast, wash your face and comb your hair. This way, you'll shine quietly before God, not before others. Your Father who sees how quietly you fast will reward you.
"Isaiah, our stock of food is getting low," his father said in a low voice. "We will need to fast until the Spring harvest is ready."
Isaiah understood is father's concern. On their small farm in the plains of Galilee, Isaiah had helped his family carefully plant the winter barley crop. In the spring they would gather the grain, mill it, and take it to the market in town. There they could sell it for the other goods they needed. But, until then, everyone in the family needed to eat less and stretch the little food they had. That's what fasting was all about.
On his rounds of the farm, Isaiah and his father saw Jesse, the day-worker. "Hello, Jesse," his father bid the poor man. "I'm sorry I had no work for you today. Did anyone else hire you?"
"No. But God be praised, I am well," Jesse replied.
Isaiah saw what his father saw. Jesse didn't complain. But, he looked weaker, paler, and thinner. "Isaiah, leave an extra potion of food out for Jesse tonight," his father whispered to the boy when they returned home.
Isaiah nodded in agreement. Isaiah and his family would give up a little more of their food tonight so Jesse could have something to eat. This was his family's way of giving to the poor. In the city, people gave money to those in need. It was called "giving alms."
That night, Isaiah's father blessed God for the food they had. Then, everyone gathered to eat. During the meal, Isaiah's father told his family about their food supply. And he mentioned weakness of Jesse. "During this time, we should pray more," his father said. "God has blessed us. We need to thank him for his blessings."
That night, the family stayed up a little later in prayer.
Fasting, giving to the poor, and prayer were popular in the time of Jesus. Many people fasted twice a week. They gave up to ten percent of their wealth to charity. And they prayed many times during the day. They did these things to get close to God.
Think about what you will give up for Lent. How will that sacrifice help you get closer to God?