Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Matt 6: 1-8, 16-18
Reflection - (I am away at the Nazareth family camp this week, but left the blog on automatic post-pilot. Comments are moderated, as I am not around to check them.)
This is my last day at Nazareth, and I’ll be back ‘live’ tomorrow (God willing). I did notice when I did this last time at Cana that my traffic diminished throughout the week and bounced back up when I returned. I guess those links to Facebook and Twitter really do help draw people to the blog!
All of which is relevant in light of this blast of radiance from the Sermon on the Mount, in praise of hiddenness! Again, the Lord is presenting here such a counter-cultural vision of life to us, something so against our grain, that we are faced with a real choice: do we believe Jesus, or do we believe the world?
The world believes in making a splash. Drawing attention to oneself. Marketing, marketing, marketing. The way to make an impact in the world is to be seen, acknowledged, noticed, admired. If people don’t know you’re doing something, are you really doing it? Does it really count? The Father in heaven sees it and will reward it, but is that really enough for us?
A tough choice we are faced with here, and there’s no way around it. I was just chatting with a friend and he said of a certain well-known figure in the local Church, “He knows how to schmooze like no one I have ever seen.” To me, that is at least a red flag. ‘Schmoozing’ is hard to reconcile with this Gospel stance of hiddenness and humble service, love, and prayer. Did Jesus ‘schmooze’? Mary? St. Francis? Mother Teresa?
We have to take seriously the Gospel call to a hidden life and a humble profile. I don’t think it’s just for people in religious communities like Madonna House, where it is literally part of our mandate to ‘be hidden’. It’s right there in the Gospel, and the Sermon on the Mount is for everyone.
The way of the world and the way of Christ are two different things, and we do indeed have to choose. This is the consistent, constant call of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. Let’s try to choose well, and embrace this hidden way as God would have us do.