June 15, 2022
by George Butterfield
Creighton University - retired
click here for photo and information about the writer

Wednesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 367

2 Kings 2:1, 6-14
Psalm 31:20, 21, 24
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

Praying Ordinary Time

Prayers for Fathers and Husbands

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

Beginning Again: Talking with God

The Gospel reading for today is the same one that is read every Ash Wednesday. It reminds us of certain spiritual principles as we begin the season of Lent. However, these principles assist us throughout the year as we strive to grow spiritually.

The first thing I notice is that it is simply taken for granted that Jesus’ disciples will give alms, pray, and fast. When I was growing up, I knew people who prayed and I was taught to pray. We also gave alms but it wasn’t a personal thing where I gave something to a person in need. It was done through the church. We contributed and we expected the church to help people. That’s certainly not a bad thing but I think it would have made a difference in my life if I had been taught to personally reach out to someone in need. Fasting? I didn’t know anyone who fasted.

The second thing that jumps out at me is that our motive for doing these things matters. God will reward us, if we do these things for the right reason but, if we do them to win the praise of others, God will not reward us. The praise itself will be our only reward. Jesus begins by saying “Take care.” It’s pretty easy to be found out when we do good deeds. Of course, sometimes I can try to do things in secret and what I have done is discovered by others and lauded. I have no control over that. But do I try to be anonymous when I give to others? My grandparents told me that when they were kids the collection was taken up at each church service by the people walking forward and putting their contribution in a basket. Many of them carried the money in their right hand and put their left hand behind their back so that their left hand would not know what their right hand was doing, to paraphrase Jesus’ words. That always made me smile but it also made me think: what are the righteous deeds I do to be seen by others?

Finally, Jesus refers to God in this passage as our Father or our heavenly Father. Three things about this Father stand out. Jesus says that he is hidden, that he sees, and that he will reward us, if we do these things in secret. First, our Father is hidden. We cannot see him with our physical eyes so it is tempting to work for a reward from someone we can see - our neighbor, parish, family, or an institution. Second, our Father sees. Do not fear - you can hide your righteous deeds, prayers, and fasting to the point that no one in the world knows what you are doing. But you can’t hide it from your Father: he sees. I had a good father but he was not one to pay much attention to anything I did on the basketball court, in the band, in the choir, or running cross country. I grew up with a sense that I was on my own and that no one actually noticed much of anything I did. How wrong was I! My heavenly Father sees. Finally, he is a Father who rewards his children. Jesus uses several terms for this: recompense, reward, repay. I also find it interesting that Jesus doesn’t add, “Now don’t do all of this because you want a reward; do it only because it’s the right thing to do.” Jesus is the one who mentioned a reward. What is wrong with wanting it? Doesn’t Jesus say that we are to lay up treasures in heaven?

Our hidden Father sees what we do for others and plans to reward us for our efforts. Don’t be ashamed to do all you can to have those rewards waiting for you when you see your heavenly Father face to face.

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