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The Rewarding Life
Wednesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
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.”
Opening Prayer: “How great is the goodness, O Lord, which you have in store for those who fear you, And which, toward those who take refuge in you, you show in the sight of the children of men” (Psalm 31:20). Lord, teach me your Way. Bring me your Truth. Give me your Life so I may praise you, and only you, here on earth and with you for all eternity. I love you, my God!
- A Rewarding Life: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.” Jesus was teaching his disciples to consider their actions and notice subtle temptations to pride. In between our good intentions and acting on them, we can get tripped up by the snares of the devil. “Take care,” Jesus said, which means “be cautious; keep oneself safe.” To live a life devoted to God, we need to discern if we are trying to impress others, bring acclaim to ourselves, or glorify God in what we say and do. To receive recompense from God is to receive atonement for our sins. When our righteous deeds are done for of love for God, he gladly responds: “But if the wicked, turning from the wickedness he has committed, does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life; since he has turned away from all the sins he has committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die” (Ezekiel 18:27-28).
- Almsgiving: “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.” Giving alms is not to be a matter of “checking off spiritual boxes” or lavishly giving so that we will be noticed by others. In this passage, Jesus was both revealing and calling his disciples more deeply into his hidden life with the Father. Almsgiving, Jesus tells us, is yet another invitation to “remain in me” (John 15:4).
- Useless Fasting: “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.” Jesus was offering practical advice, for it only makes sense that we defeat the purpose of self-denial through fasting if we use the practice to call attention to ourselves. Works of charity, spiritual practices, and praying, if not centered on and offered to God, become nothing more than self-gratification. The Church offers a helpful way for us to discern who we are glorifying by doing a daily examination of conscience. We are invited to spend a couple of minutes at the end of each day to ask the Holy Spirit to shine light on our actions in the past twenty-four hours. Where we have succeeded in giving glory to God, we praise and thank him. Where we have failed to receive his grace, we ask forgiveness. We end by asking for all the graces we will need the next day to try again.
Conversing with Christ: Lord, I believe my righteous deeds are done for you, but you know me better than I know myself. Please reveal to me where I need to improve in my efforts to allow you to transform me. Thank you, Jesus. Mary, Mother of God, intercede for me.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will begin a daily examination of conscience.
For Further Reflection: USCCB – Examinations of Conscience.
Nan Balfour is an events coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope, a Catholic Evangelization Ministry that answers Christ’s call by guiding people to encounter him so as to live in hope as pilgrims in daily life. She is also a mother, writer, and speaker on Catholic topics.
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