Have you already sought and received your reward? There are few of us who don’t often seek the approval of those around us. Sometimes, we even go out of our way to make sure they notice the good things we do. Sometimes, we will even choose to do something for others just to impress our friends…or anyone and everyone! In today’s Gospel from Matthew we are challenged by Jesus to pay attention to our motivations in making our choices. And, he insists that choices made to do good deeds, or to pray or fast are most effective and most praiseworthy when they are not made in order to make ourselves look good, but out of our love of God and our neighbor! And, even if no one sees us do these good things, Christ assures us that God notices and will bless us all the more.
These teachings of Jesus about the best attitude to have when we do righteous deeds, pray or fast are a continuation of a whole series of surprising teachings we have been hearing over the past several days. In the Gospels of the past two days, Jesus advised his disciples to respond to evil or conflict with the following: “offer no resistance…turn your cheek…offer your tunic as well…go the extra mile…love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you.”
Wow, talk about a demanding way of life! Every time I begin to think that I’m doing pretty well in living out my life with Christ, these readings from Matthew, and others similarly demanding, remind me how far I still have to go! How about you? Are you able to build into your life these remarkable responses? Clearly, Christ calls each of us not just to avoid sin, but to really learn how to love deeply, even those who are almost impossible to love. Today we pray for the grace of listening and taking to heart these challenges of Jesus.
Fr. Michael Higgins, C.P. is the director of Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.