Wednesday June 18, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (2 Corinthians 9:6-11) Gospel (St. Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18)
In the readings today, we hear about charity and generosity and the way we deal with others. Saint Paul tells us that anyone who sows sparingly will reap sparingly, but that anyone who sows bountifully will reap bountifully. He tells us also the manner in which it is to be done. It is not to be done under compulsion; no one is to feel forced. But rather it is to be done by free will and it is to be done cheerfully. The Lord also instructs us on how we are to do things and He tells us that we are not to perform our righteous deeds for other people to see, otherwise, we already have our reward. If what we are doing is works of charity so that other people will think we are pretty wonderful, so that they will notice us, so that they will pat us on the back or tell us how great we are or whatever it may be, then God does not have to. We have already gotten everything we were looking for.
And so what we need to be doing, again, is making sure we are doing the right thing for the right reason. For instance, if you decide you want to give money to the poor in order to get some kind of immediate benefit from it, the recognition or whatever it may be, not only have we already received our reward, but the reason why we have received the reward already is because we are operating merely and purely on a natural level. If we do the exact same work of charity but for a supernatural reason, as we have talked about many times, then it is being done for a reason which is divine, supernatural, and it leads us toward salvation. It is not about what we are going to get from it in this life, but rather it is about what we are going to provide for the next life.
Our Lord tells us that we are to store up treasure in Heaven. Most of us spend most of our time storing up treasure on earth, whether it is padding our own stuff, or making sure we are getting all kinds of recognition for what we are doing. And it is not merely about giving money; it is about anything. If it is the time or the ability we have that we are giving to others, if we are doing it for the reason of getting something selfish back out of it then we are not doing it for God. We are not really doing it for the good of the others even though they are benefiting from it – we are doing it for ourselves. In that way, we have already received what we were looking for. We were doing it on the natural level and we received our natural-level reward for it. If, on the other hand, we are seeking the Will of God and we are seeking to glorify Him then we will do whatever it is that we are doing but as in secret so that nobody else is going to notice it. You are not looking for attention. You are not seeking a reward in this life for it. Therefore, God Who sees in secret will reward you.
Now anyone who practices charity knows that God will never be outdone in generosity, and so even if we are not seeking anything in this life, God is going to provide abundantly anyway, but that is not the reason. The reason is that it simply has to be done out of love. So whether that is even so much as going to prayer, the Lord tells us that when we pray we should do so secretly. In other words, if the reason why you come to Mass is so that people see you, you have already received your reward. You are not here for the Lord, if that is the case; you are here for yourself. We should even be at prayer, clearly, out of love. It is not about what we get out of it – it is about what we put into it! The Lord is here for us so we do not have that part to worry about. We have to be here for Him.
So we can even look at that and look at our own motives in coming to prayer, in coming to Mass, in doing works of charity, whatever it may be. What is the motive? Now if we are going to be honest, unless we are perfect there is always going to be something selfish there. Obviously, we are going to have to deal with that. But what is the primary motive? If the primary motive is the self then we have already received our reward. If the primary motive is the love of God and the love of neighbor then we do not worry about our reward. But we also want, then, to do that work cheerfully. We want to do it without compulsion, without force. We want to do it simply because we love. That is what Our Lord is looking for. We are not looking for anything for ourselves. It is not about what we get; it is about what we give and it is about the disposition of the heart to do supernatural works for supernatural reasons. Then our heavenly Father Who sees in secret will repay us.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording with minimal editing.