Wednesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
(II Corinthians 9:6-11; Matthew 6:1-6.16-18)
When appointing a new church, pastors know how to secure donations. They inform the people that if they purchase a window or a pew for the church, their names will be placed on a plaque attached to the object purchased. One might legitimately ask if this custom undermines Jesus’ directive that alms must be given in private to receive God’s favor.
Similar questions may be made of fasting and praying. This is the same gospel that is read on Ash Wednesday when people demonstrate that they intend to fast by wearing ashes on the forehead. And, of course, people don’t always pray in their rooms but regularly go to church to pray with others. Jesus cannot be condemning these practices. He is warning, however, that if one’s primary motive in doing pious deeds is to win human favor, he or she will be deprived of God’s blessing.
As Samuel the prophet is told, God judges the human heart. He knows our true motives. We may even fool ourselves in thinking that we are doing a truly good deed, when we mostly want to look good to others. “Then can we ever be sure that we stand in the grace of God?” some will ask. It would be presumptuous to say that, but we still can live in joyful gratitude thanking God for the sacraments which, received properly, bring us God’s grace. At the same time we want to ask God for enlightenment about our true selves.