There is a saying that goes: “Blowing your own horn is a sure way to produce sour notes.” In today’s gospel reading, Jesus teaches the spirit that should animate our good works, namely, that they never become a spurious display of religiosity but rather express a genuine piety, which tends to conceal itself. Jesus teaches his disciples that their good works, such as almsgiving, prayer, and fasting, are to be done in humility, from the deep recesses of the heart, with joy—and in secret.
Regarding almsgiving, Jesus counsels us to preserve the dignity of people whenever we help them, especially when we give financial assistance. No one need know about our charities and the extent of our giving except God, “who sees in secret.”
On prayer, Jesus teaches that we must not succumb to the notion that long prayers are needed to attract God’s attention and obtain his favors. True piety is not so much a matter of the amount of words as of the frequency and love with which we turn to God in all the events of our day.
For Jesus, the essential point in the practice of fasting is that it be directed to God. St. Eymard had a healthy attitude toward fasting as revealed in a letter to his sisters, who apparently exaggerated in the matter of fasting. He tells them, “Do what you can, dear sisters, but don’t fast; you cannot. You must maintain the little lamp of strength that God has given you so that it might continue to shine a while for his glory.”
In all of the above expressions of piety, Jesus’ concern is that our relationship with God be a truly living and personal one, a relationship that reveals a conviction that God keeps our lives always under his loving gaze and rewards our devout actions.
God our Father, you see in secret and you reward our deeds performed with a pure heart. Grant that in all we do, you, not we, may be glorified. Amen.
Daily Eucharistic Reflection – Center for Eucharistic Evangelizing (eucharisticevangelizing.com)