( A commentary on Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18 )
Jesus said to his disciples: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. “When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.” (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18)
It’s part of the human condition to want to be liked, to want to be wanted, to know that you matter.
Have you ever had that nagging sense that you just aren’t enough? Have you ever spent time comparing yourself to and competing with others? Have you ever spoken or acted in a particular way to get someone’s approval? How much is your worth or value tied to what others say or think about you?
Have you ever put on a good front, pretending to be someone you weren’t, just so you would fit in and be accepted?
They reveal our desire to be seen, valued, and loved; and our need to be accepted, included, and part of a community. In a strange, sort of misguided way they reveal our longing for the holy, the transcendent, for something outside of and beyond ourselves that we cannot give to or do for ourselves. They also, however, disclose what we treasure and to what or whom we have given our hearts. They are the symptoms of having lost ourselves.
Searching in the exterior world is risky business because sometimes you find out you are not who you thought you were.
Today’s Gospel asks us to put on a different set of glasses. To see our relationship with God differently.
It is the opportunity to discover that who we are in God – and not in the eyes, opinions, praises, or approval of another – is who we most truly are. It’s a first step in our journey home.
We don’t have to impress God. Nor do we need to hide from God. He knows every virtue and every fault we have. He loves is for who we are – His son or daughter.
Our true relationship with him blooms when we seek him out, as we are. He wants us to develop an inner life of prayer and communication with him. He wants us to know his desire for our life. He wants us to explore a loving relationship with him. Above all, he wants to draw us closer to him. It is the process of drawing close to him that we can be who we are. Asking him for the strength to walk truly as a follower of His way. Asking him to use our individual gifts so that we can live a life that draws others to him as well.
He doesn’t ask us to live apart from the world but he does us ask us to “flavor” the world through our presence.
When we are in communion with him, we see ourselves as we truly are. It is in our inner beauty that we come into contact with him. When we give our hearts to God, we can’t help but give our hearts to each other.
In all of that, we gain his reward.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, give me a lively faith, a firm hope, a fervent charity, and a great love for you. Take from me all lukewarmness in meditating on your word, and dullness in prayer. Give me fervor and delight in thinking of you and your grace. Fill my heart with compassion for others, especially those in need, that I may respond with generosity.”
What is the sure reward which Jesus points out to his disciples? It is communion with God our Father. In him alone we find the fullness of life and happiness, truth and beauty, love and joy. Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD) wrote the following prayer in his Confessions: When I am completely united to you, there will be no more sorrows or trials; entirely full of you, my life will be complete.
The Lord rewards those who seek him with humble and repentant hearts. He renews us each day and he gives us new hearts of love and compassion that we may serve him and our neighbor with glad and generous hearts. Do you want to grow in your love for God and for your neighbor? Seek him out expectantly in prayer and in generous giving of yourself to those around you.