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Wednesday – Eleventh week – OT1
Readings: 2 Cor 9:6-11; Mt 6:1-6, 16-18.
1/ First Reading: RSV 2 Corinthians 9:6 The point is this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work. 9 As it is written, “He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” 10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your resources and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way for great generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God;
2/ Gospel: RSV Matthew 6:1 “Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. 2 “Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when 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. 16 “And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
I. THEME: The faithful’s duty to do merciful works
If one borrows he must pay back; if he receives he must give out. Since people have received everything from God, they have a duty to give back to Him. Besides that, people also owed many things from others, such as: ancestors, parents, nation, teachers, brothers and sisters, they also have a duty to give. Since people can’t return to God and sometimes to their benefactors, they must do for the ones in need. This is the reason that some people give back their properties which they worked hard for them to religious orders or charities, not for their descendants or relatives.
Today readings concentrate on human duty to do merciful works. In the first reading, St. Paul reminded the Corinthian faithful their duty and manner to contribute for the Jerusalem Church. They have received many from both God and the Church so now they must also generously and kindly return. In the Gospel, Jesus warned those who give alms, pray and fast for praising. If they do that, they shall have no compensation for God because they are received praises from people.
1/ Reading I: “He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”
1.1/ The correct attitude about the ownership:
– First, we need to make clear that everything we have belong to God. We aren’t the owner, but only the stewards. If we are only the stewards, we must correctly dispense them, not to spend lavishly of God’s possessions.
– Secondly, God’s given blessings are for building up the Church, society, family and individuals as Paul said: “God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work.As it is written, “He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”” When was blessed with abundant possessions, the steward must know how to invest them to benefit God, others and himself. He must generously give because the more he gives the more he shall receive. St. Paul used the image of a farmer to illustrate his point, “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” If the steward knows how to invest, he shall abundantly harvest.
Lastly, one of main reasons why people don’t give out because they fear that they shall not have enough for their future when they must face lay-off, old ages and sickness. St. Paul provided the answer for these people as follows, “God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work.” Jesus also warned the rich who wanted to build big barns to store up his harvest, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” (Lk 12:20). So we must believe in God’s providence for us.
1.2/ The proper attitude when one gives alms:
The way is more important than the thing one gives. St. Paul advised the Corinthian faithful, “Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” There are at least three possible attitudes when people give:
(1) To gather praises: Some give so that others might take notice and praise his contribution. Such an attitude is also condemned by Jesus in today Gospel. These people shall not be rewarded by God because they received others’ praise.
(2) To give reluctantly and under compulsion: Some give before they are forced to give or to protect their face. Some give because they hope to receive something back in the future.
(3) To give voluntarily: This is the attitude of those who know their duty and the needs of people they want to have. They joyfully give according to their mean and the need. Such people shall be abundantly rewarded by God.
2/ Gospel: : Do good works with a right intention.
There are many works which are good in themselves, such as: to preach the Good News, to help the poor, to pray and to fast; but the Pharisees and the scribes made them bad because of their hypocrisy. Jesus generally warned his disciples about doing good works without a right intention before he went in details three main things of the Christian life which are: giving alms, praying and fasting. When we do good deeds, our intention must fix on God’s reward, not any other things; therefore, we shouldn’t do good deeds to acquire human recognition; but to let God, who comprehends all things, reward us.
2.1/ To give alms: is to use what God has given us to share with the unfortunate. Tobia’s father advised him these precious words: “Give alms from your possessions. Do not turn your face away from any of the poor, and God’s face will not be turned away from you. Son, give alms in proportion to what you own. If you have great wealth, give alms out of your abundance; if you have but little, distribute even some of that. But do not hesitate to give alms; you will be storing up a goodly treasure for yourself against the day of adversity” (Tob 4:7-9).
There are people who reluctantly give, who show off their richess, or who thirst for human recognition. Jesus warned his disciples to get rid of these bad intentions as follows: “When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing,so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” We can’t understand literally the expression, “do not let your left hand know what your right is doing;” because it can’t be happened. Jesus simply wanted to teach his disciples that they shouldn’t show their good works for others to see. There is a difference between to show off and to do good with a right intention. The latter doesn’t care for human recognition but cares for people to know God.
2.2/ To pray: is to raise one’s mind to God, to express feeling or to make a petition. The act of praying implies what is happening between the two parties: God and the one who prays, not with the third party. When one prays to attract attention, how they can concentrate on God! Therefore, Jesus advised his disciples: “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”
When said these words, Jesus didn’t prohibit the common prayers because he often went to the temple or the synagogues to pray with others. What Jesus said today only related to private prayer; don’t pray at public places to attract human recognition as the Pharisees did.
2.3/ To fast: is to intentionally live without food in a short period of time for a religious reason, such as: to repent and to ask for God’s forgiveness (Jon 3:5; Joe 1:14, 2:15); to ask for the Holy Spirit’s guidance (Acts 13:2); or to make a special petition (2 Sam 12:16). In order one’s petition to be answered, prayer and good works must sometimes be accompanied with fasting (Isa 58:7); if not, God shall not hear one’s prayer (Isa 58:6).
To fast for others to see by acting sad and gloomy is the hypocrites’ way. Jesus taught his disciples, “When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– Giving away correctly is the way to invest for ourselves and family. Many of us carefully invested for our family’s financial future but never think of spiritually investing. We forget that if our family walks according to God’s way, we never lack of anything.
– Giving alms can benefit us nothing if we pay attention to human praises. We should do them with our love for God and others so that God Himself shall reward us with bountiful blessings.