Memory of the Saints and the Prophets

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Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You are a chosen race,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people acquired by God
to proclaim his marvellous works.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Matthew 6, 1-6.16-18

'Be careful not to parade your uprightness in public to attract attention; otherwise you will lose all reward from your Father in heaven.

So when you give alms, do not have it trumpeted before you; this is what the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win human admiration. In truth I tell you, they have had their reward.

But when you give alms, your left hand must not know what your right is doing;

your almsgiving must be secret, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.

'And when you pray, do not imitate the hypocrites: they love to say their prayers standing up in the synagogues and at the street corners for people to see them. In truth I tell you, they have had their reward.

But when you pray, go to your private room, shut yourself in, and so pray to your Father who is in that secret place, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.

'When you are fasting, do not put on a gloomy look as the hypocrites do: they go about looking unsightly to let people know they are fasting. In truth I tell you, they have had their reward.

But when you fast, put scent on your head and wash your face,

so that no one will know you are fasting except your Father who sees all that is done in secret; and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You will be holy,
because I am holy, thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Jesus continues to speak about justice. In the passages heard over the last few days, he has clarified the teaching that the old law must be lived in a new spirit, with a renewed heart. Faith in the Lord cannot be measured simply by external observances, practices, religious gestures or from what other people think. Faith is measured by a conversion to the Lord that stems from the heart. This entire Gospel passage is aimed at having us grow in the awareness that God sees all that we do; he sees and guides our lives. It is because of his loving vigilance that God is the only real and impartial judge. In any case, Jesus invited his disciples to look to God and not to men and women for a right reward. From experience we all know how strong the temptation is to do things in order to be seen by others, to feed our pride and inflate our own sense of self. At any rate, the Lord does not ask his disciples to hide the good in their lives. On the contrary, in an earlier passage, he invites them to let their light shine rather than put it under a bushel. What Jesus questions here is the attitude of our heart: our frantic search for approval, praise and reward from others. Jesus shows us that the only person who truly and profoundly understands our prayer, our mercy and our fasting is the Father. Even when other people do not understand, it is the Father to whom we direct our prayers. Only from him we can and ought to wait for the true reward. In this Gospel passage, Jesus reminds us of three religious practices that were held in high esteem: giving alms, praying and fasting. What he wants to stress, however, is the invitation to an interior journey that these three practices imply as fundamentally important in the life of the Christian. The three practices need to be lived profoundly. Giving alms, unfortunately scoffed at today at times by some Christians, is not merely a complacent gesture towards the needy; almsgiving requires the involvement of our heart with the poor. We need to touch them, to call them by name, to be interested in them, in brief, to love them because Christ is present in them. This is the spirituality of almsgiving. This is what God sees in secret, in the depths of our hearts. Prayer as well does not consist in external rituals but rather in making room in our hearts for the Word of God. This is the interiority which God sees and which is pleasing to him. The same is true for fasting. An external practice is not the issue but rather an interior, necessary struggle to minimize our egocentrism—the aim of fasting—and to let space for welcoming the Lord grow within ourselves. What is written in the book of Revelation will happen: “Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me” (Rev 3:20). This is the reward of the disciple, to live from now on with the Lord.