2 Corinthians 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.
Psalm 112:1BC-4, 9
Happy are those who fear the Lord,
who greatly delight in his commandments.
Their descendants will be mighty in the land;
the generation of the upright will be blessed.
Wealth and riches are in their houses,
and their righteousness endures forever.
They rise in the darkness as a light for the upright;
they are gracious, merciful, and righteous.
They have distributed freely, they have given to the poor;
their righteousness endures forever;
their horn is exalted in honor.
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.
In today’s scripture, Jesus teaches us what it means to practice piety as a spiritual discipline as opposed to be seen and praised by others. “Piety” is not a word that resonates deeply with today’s culture; it sounds old-fashioned, passive, and cerebral. We tend to prioritize, “being a good person”, which seems more actively oriented towards doing good, but is nonetheless more self-centered (a state of the person as good) than other-centered. But if we examine Jesus’s words, we see that practicing piety is a much more in-depth process of focus on God, focus on others, and in the process becoming transformed ourselves through acts such as giving, prayer, and self-denial, and with a mentality of investing ourselves in God.
To be holy in a way that unites us to God, we must give. Moreover, we must give generously and without seeking to get credit or rack up “good person” points. The purpose of giving of our money, of our time, of ourselves, is to show that the work of God which we support and the needs of the poor we give to are more important than our personal comfort or material success. And it is for the purpose of uniting ourselves to God who we trust to lift us up, fulfill us in body and spirit, and give us the true comfort and success that our hearts desire.
Often the world considers the practice of giving to fulfill the requirements of “being a good person”. But the scripture tells us this is not enough to be holy. To be able to give of ourselves, we need the spiritual strength to be like God. And we can only be like God if we are with God in prayer, and if we know how to deny ourselves. This is why we pray; prayer is what sustains our friendship with God, in good times and in bad, and whether we are in a place of peace or struggling against serious sin. Prayer is not a show we put on, a way of “virtue signaling” to make people think we are holy; rather, it is bringing everything human and unholy about us to God and receiving His love. And this is why we fast. Fasting may get a bad rap these days, and it is easy to confuse fasting with self-destructiveness or perfectionism if it is not done in love. But if done in love, true fasting drives us not to harm or try to perfect ourselves, but to learn to sacrifice our self-comfort and self-love in small ways that will shift our focus away from self and onto God and those around us.
Today, let’s examine how our lives manifest these three pillars of holiness - giving, prayer, and self-denial - and ask God where He is asking us to grow. Let’s pray for the grace to generously respond to the invitation to grow in holiness and be God’s children and His light in the world.
Prayer: Thank you Jesus, for coming among us and drawing us to yourself and the Father. Help me to relinquish my desires to hold onto possessions and have the esteem of others, and replace these with the desire to be closer to You and to participate in Your work of doing good on earth and leading all towards Your kingdom. St. Aloysius Gonzaga, pray for us. Amen.