Humility in Deeds

Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-18
Jl 2:12-18 / Ps 51 / 2 Cor 5:20–6:2

… and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
(Matthew 6:4,6 and 18)

The righteousness of every act
Comes from the grace of God above;
In all good things we shall not lack,
As we share humbly in His love.

Jesus said, “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; for then you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. When you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, to win the praise of men. Truly, 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 alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. When you pray, do not pray like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, to be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. . . 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 received 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.” (Matthew 6:1-6,16-18)

Reflection

Some say it is difficult to be humble because the penchant for recognition is really just a part of human nature. Just as we praise others for their good deeds or noble traits, we also want others to know what we see as commendable in ourselves. But it is the man who has grown in wisdom through God’s grace who does not seek the praise of others. Knowing that his good deeds are pleasing in the eyes of God is enough for him. The good that he does is the consequence of his gratitude to Divine Providence because he has already received his reward. The poet Robertson wrote, “Make me, O Lord, so much like Thee, My life controlled by force divine; That I a shining light may be, From which Your grace may ever shine.” The good deeds that we perform must be seen as a reflection of God’s goodness, and not our own.

Today’s Gospel passage comes at a most interesting time: the season of Lent, which starts today, has coincided with the start of the election campaign period. At a time when our Church is calling upon the faithful to practice penitence, forgiveness, simplicity and restraint, we must brace ourselves for the inevitable onslaught of candidates trumpeting their accomplishments and/or sterling qualifications to a public tired of political show-offs.

On the other hand, we are witness to the humility displayed by the leader of 1.2 billion Catholics, who has announced his abdication from the highest position in the Catholic Church. Pope Benedict XVI humbly admitted his incapacity “to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to (him)” as Supreme Pontiff of Rome. He is, after all, already 85 years of age… Yet only a little older than another kind of leader who still clings to the third highest political position in our government. In the pope’s wisdom, he believes our Church needs a stronger and much younger spiritual leader to guide the “boat of St. Peter” during these turbulent times. His humility shames all those who still hold on to power even when their productive years are well past their prime.

A humble heart, Lord, let me find, take away all feelings of righteousness and pride; make me constantly realize that all my sacrifices mean nothing if not done in repentance for all my sins. Amen.

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