19 June 2013

The mob has nothing to give you

11th Week OT (W) 
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP 
St. Dominic, NOLA 

So that we might not confuse our pious behavior for truly contrite hearts, Jesus teaches us to seek approval and reward from God alone. Give alms, pray, and fast in secret, “and your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.” Always the good psychologist, our Lord knows the motivations and urges of the human heart, and he knows that we are sorely tried by the allure of public applause. The Devil too is an excellent psychologist; he knows how to undermine our confidence in God's promises and then tempt us to chase after the empty blessings of the world. However, if we look to God alone as the only source of our blessings, we will not take the Devil's bait; we not end up flopping around in the dirt hooked by his deceptions. When you perform righteous deeds; when you pray; when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, like the ones who've snatched up the Devil's bait. Instead, do all that you do for righteousness' sake in secret, so that the Father who sees your truly contrite heart can add grace upon grace and bring you fully, wholly into His perfect love. 

It is out of his perfect love for us that our Lord admonishes us to avoid performing righteous deeds “in order that people may see them.” At the root his warning lies a basic principle for our growth in holiness: God alone can grace a contrite heart; God alone can reward a repentant soul with mercy. Though the world's gifts and rewards can be materially abundant, they are always spiritually empty—adding weight to our pride, while adding nothing to our love. If we seek applause from the mob, the mob gets to decide the difference good and evil, right and wrong. If we chase after the mob's approval, the mob will determine how we live and die, whether we live or die. Remember: it was a mob that sent Christ to the cross. And a public servant who handed him over. So, if we perform our righteous deeds in private, expecting no one and nothing else but God to bless us, then we have done all that we can to avoid the Devil's bait, and we live another day to grow in holiness. As good as this outcome may be—and it is good—there is so much more that we are charged to do. The short time that we've been given here on earth cannot be spent simply avoiding temptation and praying in secret. We are more than private hearts whispering to God in our closets. We are multipliers of His grace! 

Paul writes, “God loves a cheerful giver. Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you. . .The one who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness.” Righteous deeds performed in secret yield a public harvest of righteousness. Think of your prayers, your alms, your fasting as seeds—seeds provided by God. Broadcast them or plant them. Whether you throw them wildly or lay them carefully, your seeds of righteousness are multiplied as they fall and the harvest is increased. Paul reminds us, “You are being enriched in every way for all generosity. . .” Why is God enriching us in every way? So that we can be generous, extravagantly gracious in sowing the seeds of His Word, in forgiving one another, in loving one another, in holding one another accountable to the commandments of the Gospel. None of which will earn us the applause of the mob; all of which will sharpen our gratitude, brightly polish our need to give Him praise. Seek the blessings of God alone by performing your righteous deeds for Christ's sake alone. And leave the Devil to bait his hooks in misery.

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  1. Could just be my allergies, but this made me cry. I think our Guardian Angels are whispering behind our backs again :-). Thank you.

    1. I might have to accuse my G.A. of gossiping! :-)