2 Corinthians 9:6-11
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
Today’s scripture is both warning and promise. Paul tells us to look into our hearts.
What is the quality of our generosity? Are we always willing to walk the extra mile or do we hold back? And when we respond to the needs of our neighbor is it a whole-hearted response? Paul uses the example of the sower. If you spread the seed abundantly you will reap an abundant crop. But if you sow sparingly the harvest will disappoint you. Paul’s own life shows us the truth of his conviction.
Three major missionary journeys, despite hardships and repeated opposition, resulted in the spread of the church throughout the gentile world. Paul felt his life was blessed. His experience was that "God loves a cheerful giver."
This causes us to look at our own lives. Isn’t it our own experience that we are most fulfilled when we give of ourselves and when our heart expands to embrace others?
In the gospel Jesus is concerned about the quality of three religious practices: almsgiving, prayer and fasting. We hear this scripture every Ash Wednesday as we begin Lent. These are outward actions that people can see and form judgments about. He warns us not to do them so people will praise us. Rather Jesus says do them as quietly as we can without calling attention to ourselves. Be assured Jesus says that your Father in heaven will repay you.
Do you sense a little tension here? On one hand we are to reach out to our neighbor as Paul did. He was a very public person. His presence was not unnoticed. He was in people’s lives. But in the gospel passage Jesus tells us to work quietly and behind the scenes as it were. Maybe the distinction is between our broken brother or sister before us and the religious practices expected of a Christian. The first demands our whole-hearted action. The second calls for a little thought and planning as to how we do them.
Fr. Michael Hoolahan, C.P. is on the staff of Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.