Wednesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
(II Kings 2:1.6-14; Matthew 6:1-6.16-18)
Students at a Catholic high school would piously enter chapel during the lunch break for mass when their priest-teacher was observing, grade book in hand. Once the teacher left his post, however, the adolescents would sneak out thinking that they put something over him. But the teacher -- no one’s fool -- likely gave no real credit for mass attendance. He probably was well aware of what his students were up to and just hoped that the chicanery would result in their saying a few prayers.
In today’s gospel Jesus warns about performing acts of piety so that others may see them. He says that such hypocrisy finds no favor with the Father. He does not say, but we can presume, that such behavior has a net negative effect as one of its purposes is deception. We know eternal life or heaven to be reserved for the righteous with no wicked or faulty admitted. This means that when we are called, all deceit, hatred, and base desires will have to be seared from our souls. This purgation is often pictured as taking place on the outskirts of hell with all its blazing heat. Of course, we really don’t know what purgatory is like. Still we can say from our experience in trying to undo harmful habits that it is likely to be an unpleasant process we would do well to avoid. It would be much easier for us if we make transparency our way of life now.