To read the texts click on the texts:2 Kings 2: 1,6-14; Mt 6:1-6,16-18
Immediately after the six antitheses (5:21-48) in the Sermon on the Mount, there follows instructions on three practices that were common among the Pharisees as a sign of closeness to God namely almsgiving, prayer and fasting. All three though only a means to reach God can be made ends in themselves. Almsgiving can be ostentatious, prayer can be used to show-off and fasting can be used to point to one’s self. Jesus cautions the listeners about these dangers and challenges them to make them all internal activities that will lead the way to God rather than being made ends in themselves.
For us as Christians, Jesus has simplified matters. There is absolutely no obligation in the Christian way of life except the obligation to love. When there is love then all our actions come from our hearts and spontaneously without counting the cost. Almsgiving becomes generous and spontaneous, prayer becomes union with God and leads to action and fasting is done in order to show our dependence on God and not on earthly things.