June 17, 2009 – Wednesday, Week 11
2 Corinthians 9:6-11 / Psalm 112 / Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
Much of the Christian life revolves around two themes: imitation and transformation. Here Paul urges that believers should be as generous in their outlook and behavior as God. The true Christian can neither be a miser nor a cynic. God has showered us with his gifts, most especially with the self-donation of his only-Son, so that we might know forgiveness and everlasting life. Our Lord held nothing back. We must also devote ourselves entirely to our vocation as believers. Our disposition for grace and our capacity for holiness depend upon our self-abandonment to God’s will and the life of charity. It is in this sense that the Gospel works in a seemingly backward fashion. Those who would be rich in material things, try to make only safe investments with suitable profit. The miser hides away his money and puts it to no good use. He thinks of himself but is negligent of his neighbor. Indeed, he may illustrate disdain for the poor. In contrast, we are taught that it is in giving that we receive. I attended a Christian political conference a number of years ago, and a speaker who really did represent the radical right wing, told us: “The poor are poor because this is what they want to be!” He opposed all forms of welfare or social services. As far as he was concerned, the politics of social justice had spawned a class of dependent “never-do-wells” who were parasites to our nation. I attended the conference because of shared pro-life sympathies with many of the organizers and attendants. But I did not share such a negative view toward the poor. Indeed, there were a number of lesser disconnects: anti-alcohol and anti-gambling polemics, in particular. I don’t drink or gamble, but those are not my issues and I would be hesitant to take BINGO away from senior citizens.
Returning to the reading, the believer has the solace of knowing that the victory is ours in Christ. We do not have to allow the problems of the day to overwhelm us. Fear and anxiety are tools of the evil one. Paul would have us trust in God. As absurd as it sounds, we are to take confidence that God will give us what we need. Of course, what we need and what we “think” we need may not always be the same. We have faith in the Lord and he will give value to our works. If we give generously of ourselves, we will also be more thankful for what God has given us and how he works through us.
The so-called nonsense of Christ, exemplified in yesterday’s Gospel, is seen in our Lord’s hyperbole and hard sayings. Here too there is generosity. If someone would steal from you, give them more besides. If someone should strike you, give him the other cheek as well. It is not enough to tolerate an enemy but we must love him, too. The message of the Gospel is more than a moral code. The Gospel today does not dismiss works or “righteous deeds”. Rather, it insists upon them. However, they are to be done so that our heavenly Father may recognize his Son in us. What we say and do becomes a manifestation of God’s goodness. We want to be rich in his sight, not in the eyes of men.