Wednesday June 19, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (2 Kings 2:1, 6-14) Gospel (St. Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18)
Our Lord, in the Gospel reading today, makes very clear to us the way we are supposed to live our lives. That is, we are to live lives of charity and good works, we are to fast and give alms, but we are not to do it in such a way that it is something which is going to be seen by others; that cannot be our purpose. Otherwise, He tells us, if that is why we are doing it, we have already been repaid. And it doesn't matter what we do or how much we give or whatever it may be: He says, "You have already received your reward." And there will be no further reward for it.
On the other hand, if what we are doing is done out of charity but it is kept quiet and it is not being done in order for people to see, then our heavenly Father is going to give us our reward. But it has to be something which is done with the right intent; that is the whole point of it. We not only have to do the right thing, but we have to do it for the right reason. That is what He is getting at. It is not enough just to give the money that we are going to give or just to do the good thing or just to fast or whatever it might be, the question is why. If we are doing something for worldly gain, we are not going to get any reward from God. If we are looking for some kind of applause or if we are looking for attention or doing it for any other selfish reason or any motive that is short of the love of God, then it is not going to be a reward from God because you have already received the reward from the reason for which you have done it. That is the point that Our Lord is trying to get at.
Now we can see this exact same thing in the first reading. We have Elijah and Elisha. Part of the reading is dropped out, but as these two men walked for miles on this particular day there were three times that Elijah said to Elisha, "Stay here because the Lord is calling me on," and Elisha said, "No, I'm not going to leave you." Elijah knew that he was going to be taken up and so did Elisha. Knowing that this was going to be Elijah's last day on the earth, Elisha was willing to remain with him all the way to the end - not for any selfish reason, not so that he could get anything out of it, but rather he was doing it solely for Elijah, his master. And then we see the reward. Because he was not looking at it for himself and he was not trying to get anything out of it, right before Elijah is taken up, he [Elijah] says, "What can I do for you?" Elisha prays for a double portion of the spirit of Elijah, which he then receives because of his selflessness. Because of the charity, Elisha was able to receive what he was seeking. But he was not doing it seeking for the reward; the reward was offered only after he had demonstrated his selflessness.
The Lord is asking from each one of us that same kind of selfless attitude and that same kind of perseverance that we see in Elisha to continue on in doing what is right and doing what is good, not because we are going to get something out of it, not for any selfish reason, but purely out of charity - for the love of God and the love of neighbor - not worrying what the reward is going to be. But just as with Elisha, God will provide the reward; we do not need to worry about that. What we need to worry about is doing what is right, but doing it for the right reason, with the right disposition, so that all of our works of charity are going to be done truly out of charity and not out of any self-serving motive, not seeking a reward but just trusting that God, who sees what is secret, will repay us completely - and, in fact, as with Elisha, double for what it is that we are doing. We do not need to worry about God's part; He is more than generous. What we need to pay attention to is our part to make sure that what we are doing is the right thing for the right reason.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.