God Rewards Secret Deeds

Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-18
2 Kgs 2: 1. 6-14 / Ps 31: 20, 21, 24

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
(Matthew 6:1)

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.

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. 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. And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. 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 others 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

When we were still in our teens, most of us had always sought the approval of our peers, because being social animals, we needed to be identified with and accepted by a group. Thus, in order to belong, we learned how to smoke, drink, take drugs, and participate in whatever our group was engaged in at the time. We may not necessarily have liked what we were doing at the time – learning how to smoke tortured my throat with coughing, drinking rum felt like my stomach was burning, and LSD was really a bad trip – but we had no choice if we wanted to be part of the group, to be ‘in’. Little did we know that our insecurity and lack of maturity hinged on our need for human approval, and made us live in a world of make-believe. Our life was as artificial as the hallucinogenic drugs we were taking.

It is unfortunate that many people today are still living the artificial life, even in the practice of their faith. They like to hear and see their names up on the white screen before the show of a fund-raising event begins. At a recent benefit show we attended, not a single ‘Anonymous’ or ‘From a Friend’ was listed among the dozens of benefactors and patrons that donated huge sums for the beneficiaries of the event. The television has become a very powerful medium for evangelization, and yet, observe how some evangelists have turned their prayer assemblies into dramatic presentations. Bible in hand, eyes closed, voice quavering in eloquent prayer, their performances are pure theatrics. And yet so many who are not guided by the Word of God are so easily misled. Then there are those who fast for show. Actually, they are on a diet to reduce their weight. But they say, if one can strive to be slim and pious at the same time, why not tell your friends about it?

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus mentions the word “secret” six times. Almsgiving, prayer and fasting: three activities that should be performed in secret if done for the purpose of self-sanctification. Otherwise, it would be self- glorification, without any hope for eternal reward.

LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit and when I stand; You understand my thoughts from far away. You observe my travels and my rest; You are aware of all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, You know all about it, LORD. (Psa 139:1-4) Grant that everything I think, say and do are for Your eyes alone. Amen.

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