Here is part of today’s Gospel, from St Matthew: ‘Beware of practising your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. … And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you’.

St John Chrysostom commented: ‘And when He had said, not to do it before men, He added, to be seen of them. And though it seems as if the same thing were said a second time, yet if anyone give particular attention, it is not the same thing, but one is different from the other; and it has great security, and unspeakable care and tenderness. … For His will is to bring our soul altogether into frame, and to deliver it from every disease’.

As we embark on this holy season, and enter into the desert with Our Lord, let us remember His ‘unspeakable care and tenderness’ towards our inmost souls. May God bless your Lent, and be specially close to you.