And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
My great nephew has recently shown up on facebook with a new t-shirt: "What happens at Grandma's stays as Grandma's." Way Too Cute!
The truth is, what happens in secret does not stay in secret. The good news and the bad news will be shouted from the rooftops.
And yet we are obligated to cultivate a secret life. No one can live completely transparently. Those who try are heading for a trainwreck.
There is no market for secrecy today. The social media industry would expose and exploit every moment of our lives. Children born in the last several years may watch themselves being born in living color, and share it with their friends, for the rest of their lives. The traditional baby on the bearskin has been replaced with full disclosure. In the glare of such scrutiny how will the child find himself?
Several years ago, at our retreat house in Minnesota, I was setting up for Mass in the sacristy when I heard a woman making a phone call in the next room. I didn't actually know she was making a phone call; the first thing I heard was a very loud question, "Were you in the bathroom?" Perhaps the unfortunate person on the other line had not answered the phone soon enough; perhaps it had rang several times before she picked up to be greeted with that extraordinarily intrusive question. And yet I fear she might not have thought it was so very intrusive.
"Go to your inner room, close the door and pray to your Father in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will hear you." Jesus tells his disciples.
The vocation of Franciscan has given me that privilege. Not only can I pray in secret, I can safely assume no one knows or cares that I am praying in secret. It doesn't occur to me to announce, "I'm going to my room to pray to my heavenly Father in secret...." Nor has anyone ever asked, "Were you praying to your Father in secret?"
I know I must do it and I am convinced that negligence to my duty would be, in some way, catastrophic. If a husband fails to love his wife their children will suffer a catastrophe. In other words, their whole world will be threatened; if the couple divorces the children's world will be shattered; in some cases, irreparably.
Our duty to prayer is that important. We are with Christ holding the universe together.
In secret we express our love for God and our willingness to love, care for and forgive others. In secret we can realize, "I was wrong and I can apologize." That's much harder to do when others are looking on.
In secret we can review the day, asking whether we were attentive to the Holy Spirit during this conversation and that predicament. We can ask God to show us better ways to handle routine situations.
In secret we can tell God in all honesty, "I love you" even with the full awareness of our sins, not least of which is hypocricy.
In secret we can be reassured of Our Father's benevolent gaze. He is there for us; we are here for him.