Wednesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
(II Corinthians 9:6-11; Matthew 6:16.16-18)
The term politically correct means to be seen as just in other people’s eyes. What a politically correct person really thinks or does is secondary according to this mindset. Although it is mostly associated with the left side of the political spectrum, political correctness should not be limited to either a liberal or conservative viewpoint. Politically correct conservatives will mouth their opposition to abortion, for example, even though they hardly care about unborn babies. In the gospel today Jesus in effect condemns political correctness.
At issue in the gospel are the chief components of a pious life. In many religious traditions pious people give alms, pray, and fast. Jesus does not wish to denigrate these age-old customs. But he does call for sincerity in their practice. If fasting, praying, and almsgiving are done for God, then the doers of these actions should not be trying to impress other people. According to Jesus, acting piously to court favor undermines goodness and merits no eternal reward.
We may hear criticisms of almsgiving as helping the undeserved poor, of praying as fruitless because God already knows our needs, and of fasting as of no value beyond losing weight. Such talk, however, does not take into account the profound dimensions of these actions. Yes, we should take care that our alms meet people’s basic needs, that we don’t just mouth platitudes in our prayers but set our hearts on what we ask God, and that we fast for love of God and not for vanity. We should also endeavor not to capture the attention of others by these acts so that they may be done out of true love of God, not love of self.