Today in Catholic History:
† 1161 – Birth of Pope Innocent III (d. 1216)
† 1216 – Death of Pope Innocent III (on his 55th birthday)
† 1846 – The Papal conclave of 1846 concludes. Pope Pius IX is elected pope, beginning the longest reign in the history of the papacy (not counting St. Peter).
† 1955 – Pope Pius XII excommunicates Juan Perón.
† Liturgical Feasts: Saint Benno; Saint John Regis, patron of medical social workers; Saints Julitta and Quiricus; Saint Lutgart of Tongeren (died 1246, patron saint of the Flemish National Movement)
Quote or Joke of the Day:
A disciple once complained, “You tell us stories, but you never reveal their meaning to us.” The master replied, “How would you like it if someone offered you fruit and chewed it up for you before giving it to you?” – Anonymous
Today’s reflection is a warning against doing good in order to be seen.
Jesus said to His Disciples, “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. 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. “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 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. (NAB Mt 6:1-6, 16-18)
Listen to the “nuance” of Jesus’ words when He says “Don’t do this.” He is warning against doing good in order to be seen, and then gives three examples: almsgiving, prayer, and fasting. In each, the conduct of the “hypocrites” is contrasted with what Jesus demands from His followers. All three of these spiritual acts (per Jesus) are suppose to be part of a personal relationship we have with God, and should not be made public with the sin of pride. There are many aspects of our family life that are not made public, and the same should be true of some of our “spiritual life” practices as well.
The hypocrites that Jesus is talking about in this Gospel reading are the Scribes and Pharisees. The designation “hypocrite” reflects an attitude towards some discontents of Jesus resulting from the many controversies during the time of His ministry. The Scribes and Pharisees have received their reward in that they desired praise, and thus received what they were looking for by drawing attention to themselves. Jesus just gave them what they wanted; a short time (relatively) of fame and possibly even fortune, in exchange for eternity separated from God. Are we Scribes and Pharisees in how we treat are prayer lives, and in how we contribute to our parishes and dioceses?
Our faith has to be one of humility and reverence. This is ESSENTIAL. We are giving a gift to God, and thus it is for Him alone. Who goes to a party and yells out “I gave that to Him, I gave that to Him; Nani-Nani Boo-Boo!” Only a brat does! We should have the innocence of a child, but not necessarily the behaviors.
Our gift to God is done as a tribute to the love and mercy He has given to us. His bouquet of graces has endowed us with many fortunes and gifts in life. Jesus does not boast about His actions. As a matter of fact, I have found that Jesus usually works in small and mysterious ways; behind the scenes. If Jesus is working stealthily, and we are to follow in His footsteps, then it should be obvious that boasting about deeds and bringing attention to our activities is certainly not what He wants of us.
Though we are not required to give 10% of our income to the church, as other church groups call tithing; we are required to support the church “as our status in life” allows. Yes, this is one of six chief requirements for being a Catholic in full union with the church. (The others are to attend and possibly even assist at Mass on all Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation; fasting and abstaining on required days; confessing our sins at least once a year; receiving Holy Communion during the Easter time; and observing the laws of the Church concerning marriage.)
The almsgiving Jesus is talking about does not necessarily mean MONEY. Yes, the rent and utilities have to be paid, so please give as you are able. Supporting your church certainly entails placing money into the collection basket, but it is much more than that. Do your children go to the parish school, if available? If not, do they attend the parish school of religion? Do you volunteer to help out at the school/parish picnic? Do you attend church functions: i.e., sports, socials, men’s club, Vincent DePaul Society, etc.? Do you assist at the weekly Masses as a server, Scripture reader, Greeter, Usher, or Eucharistic Minister? This list continues: as you can see, there is a lot of potential for involvement in church and parish life.
The problem I see in our church family today is a mentality of “If I don’t do it, someone else will!” It is the rare person or family in the parish that volunteers in the parish family today. The problem this creates is one of a burn-out factor for the person or family. One person doing everything, wears them out!
In today’s society, we are permeated by a “me first” behavior and attitude. Because it is not a priority, a large percentage of Catholics do not go to Mass on a weekly basis; and when they do go (usually only at Easter and Christmas time), mass cannot go fast enough for them. These same people more than likely will receive the Eucharist without receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation prior; not realizing (or just not caring) that they are committing another grave sin in doing so. Not surprisingly, I have truly seen more than half the people attending Mass leave during “communion” time. I wonder if they realize that the only person to leave the “last meal” early was Judas Iscariot! It seems like a lot of Catholics want to keep the “Jude Man” company for eternity, in a very warm environment
I have taught 6th grade PSR (parish school of religion for public school children) for the past two years. I am amazed at the attitude of parents in regards to the importance of a good Catholic basic education, and in their own faith practices.
I once had a student (6th grade mind you) that whispered to me proudly, while sitting in the pew awaiting for our first mass of the school year to start, “I think I have been here twice before!” I felt so sorry for the injustice this child had been dealt by his parents. Another time, two students were brought to my PSR class three weeks into the semester. The parent said she had not been notified about the start date. After reminding her that it had been in the bulletin every week of the summer, she responded, “Well that would require me going to mass to get a bulletin!” Do you believe these parents are doing everything they can to support the parish: financially, or even though their talents and prayers? Let me answer for you: NO!!
I love to hear people say they are fasting or abstaining by not eating meat on Friday’s during lent, when you know they are VEGETARIANS all year round! Fasting and abstinence is important practice in our faith, and should not be taken lightly. Fasting and abstaining is a way to show God (and ourselves) that we are serious about our relationship with Him, and of our wanting to develop a deeper fellowship with Him. By voluntarily avoiding something, we are taking our eyes off the things of this world, so that we can focus far better on Christ.
The current rules for Catholics require fasting only on Ash Wednesday, and on Good Friday; and abstaining on each Friday of Lent as well. Anyone over the age of 18 and under the age of 60 should eat only one full meal on fast days, although they can also have small amounts of food in the morning and the evening. All adult Catholics are required to refrain from something on the “abstinence” days. You don’t have to stop there: the Catholic Church continues to encourage the faithful to observe a stricter fasting and abstinence habit (preferably year-round), as long as it is not to an extreme point that can be physically, spiritually, or mentally harmful to the individual.
Trivia time: The English word “breakfast,” means a meal that breaks the fast. Interestingly, I did not realize the only fast prescribed in the Mosaic law was that for the “Day of Atonement,” known today by a more popular term: “Yom Kippur” (see Lev 16:31), but the practice of regular fasting (according to the Didache) was common in later Judaism.
It would have been fun to be a “fly on the wall” when Jesus told the Scribes and Pharisees that “they have received their reward!” I wonder if He could hold back that coy little smile that says, “You guys are idiots. Get off your high-horses.”
The statements about a reward found in this Gospel reading illustrate an authentic component of Christian moral teaching for the early Church, and continuing for Catholics today as well. Possibly to underline the difference between the Christian idea of “reward,” and that of the hypocrites; Jesus used two different Greek verbs (unknown to me: Hey, I’m not a theologian) to express the rewarding of His disciples, versus that of the hypocrites.
So, what DO we do now? Pray in quiet: and be open to God talking to you. How often do you talk to God as you would talk to your biological father? We have two ears and one tongue; and God gave them to us in this ratio on purpose. Give Him time to talk to you. Another possibility, if you never tried it; go to Eucharistic Adoration. Realistically, you probably won’t last an entire hour at first, so start with 10 – 15 minutes, and build up to it over some time. It will become a treasured and wonderful experience if you allow the Holy Spirit to work through you.
When you look in a mirror, do you see Jesus looking back at you? To see Jesus in others, I believe you need to see Jesus in yourself. When in the light of Christ, which means doing what Catholics are suppose to do, “be happy.” If uncertain if you are in the light of Christ, reread this reflection. After all, doing what you are supposed to do will necessitate seeing Jesus in everyone; regardless of their social-economic status. How can anyone, other than Satan, be gloomy doing what God wants us to do for others, for His Church on Earth, and for Him?
We no longer wear sackcloth and ashes as a sign of repentance for our sins. Fasting is a form of prayer, and should be done without any fanfare, and with a smile on your face. Look at the “hunger pains” you may have as a prayer of gratitude for being closer to our Lord.
Let me add another pet peeve that I witness every year: ashes on forehead, which are typically received on “Ash Wednesday.” Ashes remind us of our mortality and are an outward sign of our sinfulness on the first day of Lent. It is not supposed to be a smudge, but instead a cross drawn on the forehead. However, some of the clergy (like Deacon Dave and Father Syd) at my parish must have failed liturgical art in the seminary.
These three disciplines (prayer, almsgiving, and fasting) go together as “spiritual gadgets” in our “Catholic tool chest.” The Church calls us to practice all three together, often! I think of these three practices of Catholic spirituality as blades on the “Papal Swiss Army Knife” of the Church.
“O Lord, In my prayers, make me a hungry child
that I may know solidarity with the poor.
In my fasting, make me an empty bowl
that you may fill the hollow space in me with love.
In my almsgiving, make me a grain of rice
that in the company of others,
my gifts may feed a starving world.
We pray this in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.”
Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO
Franciscan Saint of the Day: Bl. Guy (Guido) Vignotelli
Born 1185 in Cortona, Italy. He was known for his charities and recieved the Franciscan habit from Francis at Cortona in 1211. Guy built a cell on a bridge near Cortona, was ordained, became famed for his holiness and miracles and died in the Cortona convent of the Franciscans.
Blessed Guy (Guido) Vignotelli, OFM Tert was born in Cortona, Italy, circa 1185, and died circa 1245. After hearing a sermon by Saint Francis, the wealthy Guy invited Francis home for a meal. At the end of the meal he asked to become a disciple. He liquidated his goods and with Francis distributed the money among the poor. Guy received the Franciscan habit of a tertiary from the order’s founder, was ordained a priest, built a cell on a bridge near Cortona, and lived there. He became well known for his holiness and for his miracles, which were said to include resuscitating a girl who had drowned and multiplying food during a famine. At age 60, Saint Francis appeared to him in a dream and foretold his death–the exact hour at which Guy died.
(From http://www.franciscan-sfo.org website)
Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #16:
Let them esteem work both as a gift and as a sharing in the creation, redemption, and service of the human community.