15 Jun Wednesday of Week Eleven
2 Cor 9:6ff. Whoever sows bountifully, reaps bountifully.God loves a cheerful giver and multiplies favours among you.
Matthew 6:1ff. Jesus calls for sincerity in our motivations: We should do the right thing, and for the right reason – because it’s what God wants of us.
The Cheerful Giver
We must live for God rather than to be seen by others; act silently rather than ostentatiously. At the same time, we cannot do without the good example of others. There is a great value in remembering God’s deeds in the lives of his saints. If Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, or Jesus and Paul had performed all of their works in secret, the Scriptures would mainly consist of empty pages. Paradoxically, we stand in need of the visible example of others, to teach us to act secretly and humbly.
To feel the need always to be seen and praised is not psychologically or spiritually healthy. Such people are fundamentally unsure of themselves, and so are grasping for crutches to hold onto. They are so taken up with themselves, with telling their own story and seeking praise for their own acts, that they have little time for others. In turn, others find it more and more difficult to converse with them, and so their friends drop off and keep their distance. So Jesus is offering very healthy advice when he says, “Do not blow a horn before you in synagogues and streets, looking for applause.” He goes on to suggest, “In almsgiving, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Keep your deeds of mercy secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”
Jesus wants us to preserve both our own dignity and also that of others, whenever we help them, particularly with alms. One way, of course, is by giving anonymously, so nobody knows who did it except God “who sees in secret.” Another way, as Paul suggests, is to act so cheerfully that we seem to get more joy out of giving than the other does in receiving our gift. In this case the centre of activity is the relationship: we are the happiest in seeing others happy, because we love them.
Paul even goes so far as to claim that the more we give to others, the more we ourselves will have, since “Whoever sows sparingly will reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will reap bountifully.” Here he relies on the Book of Proverbs (11:24-25), one of the most practical books in the entire Bible. It is seldom makes heroic demands, never stirs up a prophetic tempest, and cautiously tempers excessive zeal.
This principle is not denied by the prophets, even though some of their actions have very high profile. Before leaving this earth, Elijah rolls up his mantle and divides the River Jordan for himself and disciple Elisha to walk dry shod to the other side. He keeps alive the ancestral faith that God is always with them, as when Moses separated the Red Sea and Joshua the River Jordan. Within the prophetic family, people acted generously, even lavishly, despite not being wealthy. They worked hard at manual labour and were always concerned for what they could do for others.
First Reading: 2 Co 9:6-11
The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. As it is written, “He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.
You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us.
Gospel: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.
“So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
“And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.