2Cor 9:6-11; Ps 112:1-4,9; Mt 6:1-6, 16-18
Blessings abound for those who fear the Lord. The Psalmist proclaims blessed are those who greatly delight in God’s commands. Indeed, wealth and riches belong to the just and their blessings become a blessing for all who live in the darkness of poverty and neglect. There is no true blessing here on earth that does not become a blessing for others. Those who are beloved believers in Corinth remember this same truth from the preaching of Saint Paul: “The Lord makes you abound in blessings so that you have all you need and are overflowing with gifts for every good work.” In today’s gospel the Lord Jesus also commands righteous deeds, but these must flow from righteous motives.
In the Second Letter to the Corinthians, we hear the echoes of Saint Paul’s preaching. In this text the lesson of generosity couldn’t be more clear: “Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Not only is the believer to be generous with those in need, the Christian is to give cheerfully. Such behavior naturally flows from a spirit of generosity. If there is no cheer during the action of giving, it will gradually diminish and eventually disappear. This Pauline teaching is based upon Old Testament wisdom as it is quoted: “He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” Indeed, The Lord God Almighty will not be outdone in generosity! Imitation is the highest form of praise. We give our greatest praise when we imitate our Generous God. Our generous hearts overflow into righteous deeds; this interior and exterior generosity reveals the true nature of God. Because of this embodiment of God’s love and kindness in our Church as it lives and moves and has its being in the world—great thanksgiving to God abounds. Eucharist, giving thanks, becomes a weekly norm and even a daily event throughout the Body of Christ and everywhere in the world.
This public act of thanksgiving, the Eucharist that flows out of the abundance of God’s generosity witnessed in the believers’ generosity can also become a danger. Just as for those who heard Saint Paul preach were warned not to be generous for the wrong reason. So, too, those who hear the Lord Jesus preach must also learn about the danger of doing things to be noticed, even doing good things like performing righteous deeds, praying in the assembly, or fasting with gloominess. These traditional pious Jewish practices have been taken into the spiritual life of the Christian. We fast, pray, and do acts of charity. We, too, need to hear and heed the warning of the Lord Jesus: “be secret about your almsgiving; be secret about your prayer; be hidden about your fasting.” We do not have to impress God. As a matter of fact, we cannot impress God. Our Father in Heaven knows full well the complexity of our motivations. Indeed, the Lord God Almighty knows better than we know why we do what we do. Part of our freedom as Children of God is that we do not have to redeem ourselves. He knows us better than we do ourselves and still he loves us. This grace and mercy is beyond our control. More hidden than we are to ourselves, and more secret than the depths of our hearts, such is the love and presence of the Lord God. We can be sure of one thing: The Lord will not be out done in kindness, and for this we cannot give thanks enough.