Deacon Steven Johnson’s Reflection
Reflection for the 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Thursday, 6-16-22, Year C
Readings: Sir 48:1-14; Psalm 97:1-7; Gospel Mt 6:7-15
Theme: Others before Ourselves
In yesterday’s first reading, Elisha prayed for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. But, before he did so, he praised Elijah by saying he would never leave his side, even when Elijah released him on his own recognizance. Of his own free will, Elisha chose to stay with Elijah to honor the man of God he was. Only after this did Elisha make his request.
We see a common thread throughout this week’s readings. Do not do things to gain attention for yourself, and do not ask for things without giving something first to those you ask. Christ is telling us to think of others first. Then, when they are fulfilled, ask for yourself.
God knows what we need, yet He still desires us to ask Him for those needs. By praying, we acknowledge God’s greatness and His place in our hearts. But we should not blurt out our request as the first act in our prayer. We should thank and praise Him first for all He has done for us.
God also does not want us to do something for someone just so we can get what we ask for later. That is really what Christ is saying when He talks about babbling pagans or performing righteous deeds, praying, or fasting for others to see. When we do this, we are receiving our reward from those here on Earth who praise us but cannot save us. We should do these things with God in mind and not man, by making Him the focal point of our prayer. In return, God will save us.
Paraphrasing an old saying, the true character of a man is not determined by his acts in public, but rather by his acts in private. Ask yourself, “Are my actions in public righteous, but in private, unrighteous?” In other words, when you are out with friends at a restaurant, do you tip well to appear generous, but when alone you tip very little or not at all? Do you help support a coworker who is visibly struggling on a project or presentation in front of everyone, then lambast that person and his/her character later after work to a friend or spouse?
Christ reminds us that all these things point to how we should or should not act in accordance with the Father’s will and how we should approach Him in prayer. In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives us the “Lord’s” prayer as a perfect guide for how we should live our lives and pray to God. We need to first acknowledge God’s greatness and the gifts He has given us. Second, we should ask that God be in our lives in every moment and every action. Third, we should ask that He sustain us with the bread of life, Himself, every day. Fourth, we should not be selfish and ask for forgiveness first before we give forgiveness to others. Finally, we need to ask God for the Holy Spirit to guide and protect us in every moment of our lives and keep us from the snares of the devil.
With God in mind, lead a good life privately, and you will lead a better one publicly. Know that God cherishes your prayers and devotion to Him always. In return, may you receive the greatest gift of all, His love in everlasting life.