How often have you, as I have, looked to human praise? How often have we manipulated someone, or some situation, looking for affirmation of our deeds? I am as guilty as the next person, doing or saying things that will cause someone to notice what I am doing.
Today’s Gospel is difficult to read. It points out to us that we must do our good deeds, as well as our prayer and fasting in secret. How that goes against our human nature!
I don’t like to believe that most of us are inherently prideful and struggle to practice humility. True humility. Because being humble can also turn into a prideful act if we are not careful. But we all do succumb to our human nature. We like to hear praise, no matter from where it comes. And I know that I, for one, can be manipulative in extorting praise.
Jesus tells us today to do our good deeds in secret; to fast in secret; to hide those things from the world even as we practice them. To let God alone be the judge of what we do. It also has a downside. Because it means what you do good or bad. Have you ever stopped what you were doing and thought, “Be careful. God sees everything I do.” Yes, he sees the good as well as the bad. And he will judge both.
Why care? Well, some years ago I was asked to write a reflection for my parish based on a Jeremiah reading. I had a hard time finding inspiration. It came in the form of a car commercial (of all places!). The very last line of the commercial was “It is what you do when no one else is around that defines who you are.” My head shot up, and I waited for the commercial to run again, to be sure I heard what I thought I heard. It was from that line that I was inspired to write the reflection.
It’s what you do when no one else is around. We often forget that God is always around and sees what we do. Are we aware? I like to think of it as keeping “an eye to eternity,” to keep to the Law of God written on the heart. Why do we do what we do, or say what we say; buy or not buy the things we desire or participate in the activities we do? Do we ever stop to ask if what we are saying, doing or purchasing will get us into Heaven? Or perhaps keep us out? Our life’s actions must be defined by our desire to be with God, for all eternity. It is a simple thing, really. God will see what we do; God will be the judge; God, alone, will bring us into eternity. The question then, becomes, will the human praise we receive here in this life bring us peace, or bring us to the ruination of our soul?
A little clarification here. We are going to, at times, receive praise from others. It is how we accept that praise and how it will color our lives that make the difference. A simple “thank you,” when it happens, is all that is necessary. And then move on.
If you aren’t now doing so, begin to practice what is written on the heart, “keeping an eye to eternity. “ I believe you will have more peaceful days.
Jeanne Penoyar, an Accounts Manager here at Diocesan, is currently a Lector at St. Anthony of Padua parish in Grand Rapids, MI. While at St. Thomas the Apostle, Grand Rapids, Jeanne was a Lector, Cantor, Coordinator of Special Liturgies, Coordinator of lectors and, at one time, chair of the Liturgy Commission. In a past life, secretary/bookkeeper at the Basilica of St. Adalbert where she ran the RCIA program for the Steepletown parishes. And she loves to write! When relaxing, she likes reading and word puzzles.