Blessed Are Those Who Follow the LORD

Blessed are you who fear the LORD,
who walk in his ways!
For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork;
blessed shall you be, and favored.

Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
in the recesses of your home;
Your children like olive plants
around your table.

Behold, thus is the man blessed
who fears the LORD.
The LORD bless you from Zion:
may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life.
(Psalm 128:1-5)

Scripture Study

128:1. “Fearing the Lord” is really the same thing as keeping his commandments (cf. Ps 1:1). “For us, fear of the Lord is a part of love; and its expression is the practice of perfect charity: obey the counsels of God, hold fast to his commandments, trust in his promises” (St Hilary of Poitiers, Tractatus super Psalmos, 127, 1–3).

128:2–4. The beatitude promised here is a happy family life, with enough to live on (v. 2) and peace between parents and children (v. 3). The phrase “who fears the Lord” helps to make vv. 1–4 a unit; in practice, as we said, fearing the Lord means keeping his precepts, which is the way to happiness.

128:5–6. The divine blessing will keep the nation safe and give the individual a long life.

Scripture Reflection

God’s blessing is the enhancement of life that brings it to fulfillment. That understanding is apparent in the way this psalm speaks of the two basic areas of human life. Mortals work, but it is the blessing of God that brings work to completion and makes the labor satisfying. Mortals marry, but the birth and growth of children is the blessing of God.

By putting the formulas for the beatitude and the blessing in parallel, the psalm assumes that whatever makes life good is the effect of blessing. Without blessing, life is incomplete and frustrated. There is a concurrence between the way life is lived and the way life is enhanced. Well-doing and doing well are interdependent. Walking in the ways of the LORD is a receptivity to the blessing of the LORD. The spirit of pilgrimage always incorporates walking in the ways of the LORD.

– James Mays

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

Upon this Rock

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi
he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
(Matthew 16:13-19)

Scripture Study

16:13 Who do people say that the Son of Man is?: although the question differs from the Marcan parallel (Mk 8:27: “Who … that I am?”), the meaning is the same, for Jesus here refers to himself as the Son of Man (cf. Mt 16:15).

16:14 John the Baptist: see Mt 14:2. Elijah: cf. Mal 3:19; Sir 48:10; and see note on Mt 3:4. Jeremiah: an addition of Matthew to the Marcan source.

16:16 The Son of the living God: see Mt 2:15; 3:17. The addition of this exalted title to the Marcan confession eliminates whatever ambiguity was attached to the title Messiah. This, among other things, supports the view proposed by many scholars that Matthew has here combined his source’s confession with a post-resurrectional confession of faith in Jesus as Son of the living God that belonged to the appearance of the risen Jesus to Peter; cf. 1 Cor 15:5; Lk 24:34.

16:17 Flesh and blood: a Semitic expression for human beings, especially in their weakness. Has not revealed this … but my heavenly Father: that Peter’s faith is spoken of as coming not through human means but through a revelation from God is similar to Paul’s description of his recognition of who Jesus was.

16:18 You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church: the Aramaic word kēpā’ meaning rock and transliterated into Greek as CEphas is the name by which Peter is called in the Pauline letters (1 Cor 1:12; 3:22; 9:5; 15:4; Gal 1:18; 2:9, 11, 14) except in Gal 2:7–8 (“Peter”). It is translated as Petros (“Peter”) in Jn 1:42. The presumed original Aramaic of Jesus’ statement would have been, in English, “You are the Rock (kēpā’) and upon this rock (kēpā’) I will build my church.” The Greek text probably means the same, for the difference in gender between the masculine noun petros, the disciple’s new name, and the feminine noun petra (rock) may be due simply to the unsuitability of using a feminine noun as the proper name of a male. Church: this word (Greek ekklēsia) occurs in the gospels only here and in Mt 18:17 (twice). There are several possibilities for an Aramaic original. Jesus’ church means the community that he will gather and that, like a building, will have Peter as its solid foundation. That function of Peter consists in his being witness to Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of the living God. The gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it: the netherworld (Greek Hadēs, the abode of the dead) is conceived of as a walled city whose gates will not close in upon the church of Jesus, i.e., it will not be overcome by the power of death.

16:19 The keys to the kingdom of heaven: the image of the keys is probably drawn from Is 22:15–25 where Eliakim, who succeeds Shebnah as master of the palace, is given “the key of the house of David,” which he authoritatively “opens” and “shuts” (Mt 22:22). Whatever you bind … loosed in heaven: there are many instances in rabbinic literature of the binding-loosing imagery. Of the several meanings given there to the metaphor, two are of special importance here: the giving of authoritative teaching, and the lifting or imposing of the ban of excommunication. It is disputed whether the image of the keys and that of binding and loosing are different metaphors meaning the same thing. In any case, the promise of the keys is given to Peter alone. That the keys are those to the kingdom of heaven and that Peter’s exercise of authority in the church on earth will be confirmed in heaven show an intimate connection between, but not an identification of, the church and the kingdom of heaven.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today we honor Sts. Peter and Paul, the indispensable players, the ones without whom Christianity would never have gotten off the ground. What they held crucially in common was their love for Jesus Christ, a love that brought both of them to their death. They represent two essential archetypes in the life of the Church. Without the creative tension between the two, the Church would not have had the capacity to survive in the course of these two millennia.

Peter is the archetype of order and office. Without leadership based upon a clear confession of faith, the Church would have, long ago, fizzled and fallen apart. Peter represents leadership, integrity, form, and structure.

Paul represents mission, theology, and evangelization, the outward and energetic dimension of the Church’s life. Paul was the first theologian in the tradition, the first to practice the art of faith seeking understanding. Mind you, this speculative, adventurous, theological effort must be disciplined by Peter; otherwise, it would become unruly and self-defeating. And this is why it is altogether fitting and proper that we celebrate these two great saints together.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

By Their Fruits

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing,
but underneath are ravenous wolves.
By their fruits you will know them.
Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
Just so, every good tree bears good fruit,
and a rotten tree bears bad fruit.
A good tree cannot bear bad fruit,
nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit.
Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down
and thrown into the fire.
So by their fruits you will know them.”
(Matthew 7:15-20)

Scripture Study

7:15 If destruction is the ultimate peril that Christians must avoid, then deception is a more proximate one. Jesus thus puts us on guard against false prophets who would steer us away from life. These folks look to be Christians on the outside, for their sheep’s clothing enables them to blend with others in the Lord’s flock. Nevertheless, appearances can be deceiving, for they are really wolves, predators on the hunt for prey (see Acts 20:28–30). The false prophets may claim to speak for God, but their teachings are at odds with the gospel. Of course, their presence within the Christian community is no basis for denying that there are genuine prophets and teachers (see 10:41; Acts 13:1; Eph 4:11). But Jesus warns that counterfeits will arise even within the Church (13:24–30).

7:16–20 How, then, is the community of believers to know a true prophet from a false one? Jesus tells us to examine their behavior. On the principle that like produces like, we are to evaluate the fruits of their lives. If their actions and their character show forth good things such as grapes and figs, then the prophet is a good and trustworthy tree. However, if the works of the alleged prophet produce prickly thistles or a harvest of bad fruit, then he has blown his cover—the self-styled prophet is really a rotten tree that cannot be trusted.

Scripture Reflection

There are many references in the Old Testament to false prophets. How are false prophets and genuine prophets to be distinguished? By the fruit they produce. Human nobility and divine inspiration combine to give the things of God a savior of their own. A person who truly speaks the things of God sows faith, hope, charity, peace and understanding; whereas a false prophet in the Church of God, in his preaching and behavior, sows division, hatred, resentment, pride and sensuality. However, the main characteristic of a false prophet is that he separates the people of God from Christ’s teaching. Our Lord also indicates that these deceivers are destined to eternal perdition.

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

The Golden Rule

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine,
lest they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you to pieces.

“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.
This is the Law and the Prophets.

“Enter through the narrow gate;
for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction,
and those who enter through it are many.
How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life.
And those who find it are few.”
(Matthew 7:6, 12-14)

Scripture Study

7:12 do so to them: The “Golden Rule”. It is similar to statements in the OT (Tob 4:15; Sir 31:15) and other world religions. While normally a negative statement (based upon not doing to others), Jesus states it positively (CCC 1970).

7:13–14 the narrow gate: An image with various associations. (1) Cities surrounded by a fortified wall had gates to permit access. Main gates were wide and tall enough for caravans of people and animals; smaller gates permitted only pedestrian traffic. Jesus envisions the many passing with ease through a main gate. The few must exert greater effort to enter a narrow pedestrian gate (cf. 22:14). (2) The Jerusalem Temple had a series of gates that prohibited entry for the unqualified; only a privileged few had close access to God. This teaching of the “two ways” is common in the OT (cf. Deut 30:15–20; Ps 1; Wis 5:6–7; CCC 1696).

Scripture Reflection

The “golden rule,” as depicted by Norman Rockwell’s painting above, encapsulates all of Christian morality into a single statement. It is a summary of biblical morality that found similar expression in the Old Testament and ancient Judaism. Jesus formulates it in the widest possible terms. His words are a mini-commentary on the Mosaic precept, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Notice that Jesus places no restriction on the scope of this rule. The underlying principle is the same in both: Everyone loves himself or herself and desires to be loved by others, so it is our moral duty to show love to all whose lives come into contact with our own.

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

Stop Judging

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Stop judging, that you may not be judged.
For as you judge, so will you be judged,
and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.
Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye,
but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?
How can you say to your brother,
‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’
while the wooden beam is in your eye?
You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first;
then you will see clearly
to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.”
(Matthew 7:1-5)

Scripture Study

7:1 Stop judging: this is not a prohibition against recognizing the faults of others, which would be hardly compatible with Mt 7:5, 6 but against passing judgment in a spirit of arrogance, forgetful of one’s own faults.

7:5 Hypocrite: the designation previously given to the scribes and Pharisees is here given to the Christian disciple who is concerned with the faults of another and ignores his own more serious offenses.

Scripture Reflection

Jesus forbids us to judge and condemn the heart. No one has access to the hidden intentions that animate another’s actions, nor can one know another’s level of culpability as determined by their circumstances and by their level of moral or religious instruction.

We are prone to make unwarranted generalizations about a person’s character on the basis of this or that transgression. Judgmentalism of this sort is unacceptable behavior. Judging others for their faults is not only harmful to human relationships; it is also harmful to one’s relationship with the Lord.

Our thoughts and actions should instead focus on our call to charity. St. Paul lists its main features in his letter to the Corinthians: “Love is patient and kind . . . Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” St Josemaría Escrivá reminds us, “Let us be slow to judge. Each one sees things from his own point of view, as his mind, with all its limitations, tells him, and through eyes that are often dimmed and clouded by passion” (The Way, 451).

Fear No One

Jesus said to the Twelve:
“Fear no one.
Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed,
nor secret that will not be known.
What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light;
what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.
And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul;
rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy
both soul and body in Gehenna.
Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin?
Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.
Even all the hairs of your head are counted.
So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Everyone who acknowledges me before others
I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.
But whoever denies me before others,
I will deny before my heavenly Father.”
(Matthew 10:26-33)

Scripture Study

10:26–27. Jesus tells his disciples not to be afraid of slander and disparagement. A day will come when everyone will come to know the whole truth about everyone else, their real intentions, the true dispositions of their souls. In the meantime, those who belong to God may be misrepresented by those who resort to lies, out of malice or passion. These are the hidden things which will be made known.

Christ also tells the apostles to speak out clearly. Jesus’ divine teaching method led him to speak to the crowds in parables so that they came to discover his true personality by easy stages.

10:28. Using this and other Gospel texts (Mt 5:22, 29; 18:9; Mk 9:43, 45, 47; Lk 12:5), the Church teaches that hell exists; there those who die in mortal sin suffer eternal punishment (cf. St Pius V, Catechism, 1, 6, 3), in a manner not known to us in this life (cf. St Teresa of Avila, Life, chap. 32).

Therefore, our Lord warns his disciples against false fear. We should not fear those who can only kill the body. Only God can cast body and soul into hell. Therefore God is the only one we should fear and respect; he is our Prince and Supreme Judge—not men. The martyrs have obeyed this precept of the Lord in the fullest way, well aware that eternal life is worth much more than earthly life.

10:29–31. An as (translated here as “penny”) was a small coin of very little value. Christ uses it to illustrate how much God loves his creatures. As St Jerome says (Comm. on Matthew, 10:29–31): “If little birds, which are of such little value, still come under the providence and care of God, how is it that you, who, given the nature of your soul, are immortal, can fear that you are not looked after carefully by him whom you respect as your Father?” Jesus again teaches us about the fatherly providence of God, which he spoke about at length in the Sermon on the Mount (cf. Mt 6:19–34).

10:32–33. Here Jesus tells us that public confession of our faith in him—whatever the consequences—is an indispensable condition for eternal salvation. After the Judgment, Christ will welcome those who have given testimony of their faith and condemn those whom fear caused to be ashamed of him (cf. Mt 7:23; 25:41; Rev 21:8).

Scripture Reflection

Friends, in today’s Gospel Jesus gives us the biblical antidote for fear. What are you afraid of? What do you have to lose? Does it terrify you to think that you might lose your wealth? Your social status? The affection of others? Your health? Your power and influence? Your reputation and good name? Your life? I’ve spoken often of my favorite movie, A Man For All Seasons. What frustrated Cardinal Wolsey and Henry VIII about Thomas More is that they couldn’t manipulate him. And why couldn’t they do that? He wasn’t afraid. There was nothing they could threaten him with.

In time, Henry took away More’s job, status, money, reputation, friends, family, freedom—each time hoping that he would give in—until finally the King took away his life. Everyone else he could intimidate, but not More.

And Thomas More’s last words are instructive here: “I die the King’s good servant; but God’s first.” Thomas More did fear someone. He had that holy fear that the Bible speaks of often: the fear of the Lord. There was something he feared losing—and that was intimacy and friendship with God. Compared to that, everything else was straw.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.


The Forerunner

When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child
she gave birth to a son.
Her neighbors and relatives heard
that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her,
and they rejoiced with her.
When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child,
they were going to call him Zechariah after his father,
but his mother said in reply,
“No. He will be called John.”
But they answered her,
“There is no one among your relatives who has this name.”
So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called.
He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,”
and all were amazed.
Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed,
and he spoke blessing God.
Then fear came upon all their neighbors,
and all these matters were discussed
throughout the hill country of Judea.
All who heard these things took them to heart, saying,
“What, then, will this child be?”
For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.
The child grew and became strong in spirit,
and he was in the desert until the day
of his manifestation to Israel.
(Luke 1:57-66, 80)

Scripture Study

1:57–66 The birth and circumcision of John above all emphasize John’s incorporation into the people of Israel by the sign of the covenant (Gn 17:1–12). The narrative of John’s circumcision also prepares the way for the subsequent description of the circumcision of Jesus in Lk 2:21. At the beginning of his two-volume work Luke shows those who play crucial roles in the inauguration of Christianity to be wholly a part of the people of Israel. At the end of the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 21:20; 22:3; 23:6–9; 24:14–16; 26:2–8, 22–23) he will argue that Christianity is the direct descendant of Pharisaic Judaism.

1:59 The practice of Palestinian Judaism at this time was to name the child at birth; moreover, though naming a male child after the father is not completely unknown, the usual practice was to name the child after the grandfather. The naming of the child John and Zechariah’s recovery from his loss of speech should be understood as fulfilling the angel’s announcement to Zechariah in Lk 1:13, 20.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today’s Gospel celebrates the birth of John the Baptist. I think it’s fair to say that you cannot really understand Jesus without understanding John, which is precisely why all four evangelists tell the story of the Baptist as a kind of overture to the story of Jesus. John did not draw attention to himself. Rather, he presented himself as a preparation, as a forerunner, a prophet preparing the way of the Lord. He was summing up much of Israelite history, but stressing that this history was open-ended, unfinished.

And therefore, how powerful it was when, upon spying Jesus coming to be baptized, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God.” No first century Israelite would have missed the meaning of that: behold the one who has come to be sacrificed. Behold the sacrifice, which will sum up, complete, and perfect the temple. Moreover, behold the Passover lamb, who sums up the whole meaning of that event and brings it to fulfillment.

And this is why John says, “He must increase and I must decrease.” In other words, the overture is complete; and now the great opera begins. The preparatory work of Israel is over, and now the Messiah will reign.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

Remain In Love

Beloved, let us love one another,
because love is of God;
everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.
Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.
In this way the love of God was revealed to us:
God sent his only Son into the world
so that we might have life through him.
In this is love:
not that we have loved God, but that he loved us
and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.
Beloved, if God so loved us,
we also must love one another.
No one has ever seen God.
Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us,
and his love is brought to perfection in us.

This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us,
that he has given us of his Spirit.
Moreover, we have seen and testify
that the Father sent his Son as savior of the world.
Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God,
God remains in him and he in God.
We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us.

God is love, and whoever remains in love
remains in God and God in him.
(1 John 4:7-16)

Scripture Study

4:8 God is love: God exists as an eternal act of love, with the Father, Son, and Spirit giving themselves to one another in an everlasting embrace. This love of the Trinity, which has its eternal source in the Father, spills over into history through the sacrificial love of the Son (Rom 5:8) and the sanctifying love of the Spirit (Rom 5:5). For John, we can be sure that God lives in us if we love others as God loves—genuinely, sacrificially, unconditionally. In this way, God’s trinitarian love is reflected on earth as it is in heaven (CCC 221).

4:9 his only-begotten Son: The Greek can refer either to the “divine generation” of the Son or to his “uniqueness”. Both senses may be intended, for neither is exclusive of the other (Jn 1:18) (CCC 444).

4:10 expiation: An atoning sacrifice for sin.

4:12 has ever seen God: The divine essence of God is invisible spirit (Jn 4:24). His divine love, however, is made visible in the humanity and mission of Jesus (Jn 14:9) and in the selfless charity of his followers (Jn 13:35; CCC 516).

Scripture Reflection

“God is love.” Without speaking strictly as a definition, this statement reveals to us one of the most consoling attributes of God. St Augustine explains, “Even if nothing more were to be said in praise of love in all the pages of this epistle, even if nothing more were to be said in all the pages of Holy Scripture, and all we heard from the mouth of the Holy Spirit were that ‘God is love’, there would be nothing else we would need to look for.”

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

Christ In Me

Brothers and sisters:
If only you would put up with a little foolishness from me!
Please put up with me.
For I am jealous of you with the jealousy of God,
since I betrothed you to one husband
to present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning,
your thoughts may be corrupted
from a sincere and pure commitment to Christ.
For if someone comes and preaches another Jesus than the one we preached,
or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received
or a different gospel from the one you accepted,
you put up with it well enough.
For I think that I am not in any way inferior to these “superapostles.”
Even if I am untrained in speaking, I am not so in knowledge;
in every way we have made this plain to you in all things.

Did I make a mistake when I humbled myself so that you might be exalted,
because I preached the Gospel of God to you without charge?
I plundered other churches by accepting from them
in order to minister to you.
And when I was with you and in need, I did not burden anyone,
for the brothers who came from Macedonia
supplied my needs.
So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way.
By the truth of Christ in me,
this boast of mine shall not be silenced
in the regions of Achaia.
And why? Because I do not love you?
God knows I do!
(2 Corinthians 11:1-11)

Scripture Study

11:1 bear with me: Paul asks readers to tolerate a little boasting on his part, even though he dislikes it and knows it is foolish.

11:2 I betrothed you to Christ: Paul is the “father” (1 Cor 4:15) of the Corinthians and thus in charge of safeguarding their purity before marriage. He is preserving them for Christ, the husband, who is already betrothed to them by covenant but who waits to receive them into his home as a chaste bride (literally, “virgin”). This marital imagery is frequent in the NT (Mt 25:1–13; Eph 5:23–32; Rev 19:7) (CCC 505, 796).

11:3 the serpent deceived Eve: An allusion to Gen 3:1–7. ● Paul looks back to the Fall of Adam and Eve to warn readers that the same danger once present in the Garden of Eden is now lurking in Corinth. He fears that the Corinthians, like Eve, will be lured away from Christ by the seductive voice of evil. Satan is once again the intruder, this time disguised as the “false apostles” (11:13).

11:4 another Jesus: A distorted message about Jesus in conflict with the apostolic gospel.

11:5 superlative apostles: A sarcastic title for the counterfeit apostles in Corinth (12:11). It suggests they viewed themselves as superior to Paul. See note on 2 Cor 11:13.

11:7–11 Paul defends his practice of refusing financial assistance from the Corinthians. He was able to support himself among them by donations from other Churches (11:8) and by manual labor, probably tent making (Acts 18:3). The Corinthians unfortunately took this as an insult and an indication that Paul did not love them (2 Cor 11:11). To counter this, Paul reveals several reasons for this pastoral decision. (1) He wished to lay no unnecessary burden on them (11:9). (2) He hoped to accentuate the stark difference between his ministry and that of his opponents, who greedily took advantage of the Corinthians’ resources (11:20). (3) As their spiritual “father” (1 Cor 4:15), he wanted to provide for them in the same way that parents do for their children (2 Cor 12:14). In the end, Paul’s tireless labor was a greater expression of love than accepting their monetary gifts (12:15).

Scripture Reflection

The whole passage shows very clearly St Paul’s passionate temperament and his ardent zeal for souls; he does not mind doing something which costs him a great deal, if that is what has to be done to ensure that souls he has won for Christ are not lost; and he overlooks the fact that the Corinthians have not spoken out on his behalf, as was their duty, that they have not responded to his love and vigilance for them, or that his words have been misinterpreted. His attitude stands as a very good example of upright intention: he devotes his whole life to souls, seeking no human recompense.

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

Father Sees All

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Take care not to perform righteous deeds
in order that people may see them;
otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.
When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you,
as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets
to win the praise of others.
Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you give alms,
do not let your left hand know what your right is doing,
so that your almsgiving may be secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites,
who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners
so that others may see them.
Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door,
and pray to your Father in secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.
They neglect their appearance,
so that they may appear to others to be fasting.
Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,
so that you may not appear to others to be fasting,
except to your Father who is hidden.
And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”(Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18)

Scripture Study

6:2 give alms: Charitable gifts given to the poor (Sir 17:22; Lk 3:11; CCC 2447). hypocrites: Refers to “actors” or “stage players”. Jesus may have certain scribes and Pharisees in mind (cf. 23:5, 27–28) who perform outward devotions to be seen and praised by men. The exercise of one’s faith can be public, so long as it flows from proper intentions (5:16).

6:6 in secret: Private prayer stands in contrast to the false piety of hypocrites. It was Jesus’ own custom to withdraw from the public and pray alone to the Father (14:23; Mk 1:35; Lk 9:18). Private prayer is a complement to communal prayer, not a rejection of it (cf. 18:20; Acts 1:12–14; CCC 2602, 2655).

6:17 anoint your head: Fasting was often a public practice accompanied by wearing sackcloth and putting ashes on one’s head (Esther 4:3; Dan 9:3). While it was intended to express inner repentance, hypocrites utilized it to appear devout. Washing and anointing outwardly symbolize happiness and disguise one’s inner commitment to God (Ruth 3:3; Ps 23:5; Is 61:3; CCC 1438).

Scripture Reflection

Friends, todays Gospel prescribes the disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. I want to speak about the Biblical principle behind almsgiving. I know I’ve quoted to you before some of the breathtaking remarks of saints and Popes. For example, Pope Leo XIII said, “once the demands of necessity and propriety have been met, the rest of your money belongs to the poor.” St. John Chrysostom said—and St. Ambrose echoed him—“For the man who has two shirts in his closet, one belongs to him; the other belongs to the man who has no shirt.” These ideas are, of course, rooted in the Biblical prophets, who continually rail against those who are indifferent to the poor.

Compassion is key to Christian ethics, learning to suffer with and feel with the other. We’re not dealing with an abstract Aristotelian moral philosophy, but rather with something more visceral.

This is precisely why the two great commandments are so tightly linked: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart…and love your neighbor as yourself.” In loving God, you feel the feelings of God, and God is compassionate to the poor and oppressed. That’s all the argument that a Biblical person needs.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.