15 June 2016
This is a hard gospel to hear: Pray, give alms, and fast for the love of God . . . but don’t tell anybody what you’re doing. It’s like asking a dog to sit and roll over . . . and then not giving it a treat for doing a good job! After all, many of us get encouraged when other people recognize the good we’re doing. It feels good to be praised by others. But Jesus cautions us about that.
“Take care,” he says, “not to [give alms, or pray, or fast] in order that people may see [what you do].” Those are all good and pious things to do, of course. But, Jesus says, whatever we do—if we’re doing it out of personal love for God—then let God’s praise alone be our reward. And that’s hard. It’s hard, especially if we’re used to seeking the approval and support of others.
But that’s what Jesus asks of us—when it comes to our personal piety: to do good things for the sheer joy of doing them, even if nobody else knows we’ve done them, other than God. Now, St. Therese of Lisieux wrote about a “secret delight” she had; a “secret joy” that was in her heart. And that “secret” was simply her relationship with the Lord. Whatever she did, it was a private gift of herself to God, a private act of love shared between her and God. That was her “secret delight;” being able to say to God behind closed doors: “Your love is enough for me."
It feels good to be praised by others; it’s encouraging. But it especially tickles our heart when God himself whispers to us: “Well done, my good and faithful friend.” May God’s love and praise be enough for us.