2 Kings 2:1, 6-14
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
We live in a culture – in a world actually – where not talking about what someone/ somewhere is doing is nearly impossible! On the upside, when something good or positive happens and the media gets a hold of it, masses of people have their awareness tweaked and may want to roll up their sleeves and get involved.
Today’s Gospel is cautioning against a very specific kind of public awareness, however, the kind that says, "Look at me while I’m doing something good or taking a position that is ‘righteous.’ Aren’t I great or holy or (fill in the blank)?" We are being asked to avoid what is basically narcissistic behavior; the narcissism that elevates self over God.
There is a compelling image in today’s reading: But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. It’s difficult to forego public attention or praise! My ego loves it; maybe yours does, too. To let go of the world and the intoxicating effects of its regard in order to be formed in a quieter and deeper way is a choice based in humility but is also grounded in trust and relationship.
We have an "inner room" where God resides, and it is this loving connection that forms us as spiritual beings. The good we may engender flows from that intimacy and reflects back the image of God, not us. Certainly the story of Elijah being taken to heaven in the first reading is not about Elijah’s power, but God’s. And Elisha’s request to receive a double portion of Elijah’s spirit is not so he can be more holy or powerful, but so that he can carry on in Elijah’s place doing the work that God commands.
Oprah, Facebook, the Nightly News: they have their place. But they do not create goodness or good people. God does; in God’s time, in God’s way.
Nancy Nickel is the former director of communications at the Passionist Development Office in Chicago.