Wednesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
Daily Scripture Analysis

Daily Gospel

Wednesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 (1 Kgs 2:1, 6-14):

When the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind,
he and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal.
Elijah said to Elisha, "Please stay here;
the LORD has sent me on to the Jordan."
"As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live,
I will not leave you," Elisha replied.
And so the two went on together.
Fifty of the guild prophets followed and
when the two stopped at the Jordan,
they stood facing them at a distance.
Elijah took his mantle, rolled it up
and struck the water, which divided,
and both crossed over on dry ground.

When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha,
"Ask for whatever I may do for you, before I am taken from you."
Elisha answered, "May I receive a double portion of your spirit."
"You have asked something that is not easy," Elijah replied.
"Still, if you see me taken up from you,
your wish will be granted; otherwise not."
As they walked on conversing,
a flaming chariot and flaming horses came between them,
and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.
When Elisha saw it happen he cried out,
"My father! my father! Israel's chariots and drivers!"
But when he could no longer see him,
Elisha gripped his own garment and tore it in two.

Then he picked up Elijah's mantle that had fallen from him,
and went back and stood at the bank of the Jordan.
Wielding the mantle that had fallen from Elijah,
Elisha struck the water in his turn and said,
"Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?"
When Elisha struck the water it divided and he crossed over.

Gospel (Mt 6:1-6, 16-18)

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."


Written by: Fr. Anthony Dinh Minh Tien, O.P.

 

I. THEME: God’s reward versus human recognition

            Many Christians want human recognition when they donate a big amount of money for the church or for charitable programs. God wants people to do good deeds sincerely, secretly as “do not let your left hand know what your right is doing.” A Christian can only choose one of the two, either God’s reward or human recognition, not both of them.

            Today readings emphasize that we must have a right intention when we use God’s gifts. In the first reading, Elishah asked to have a double portion of Elijah’s spirit, his master. If he used the gift for his prophetic mission, it is good and God shall give him; but if he uses that gift to get human recognition or to harm others, God shall not give it to him. In the Gospel, Jesus taught his disciples that when they do good works, such as: to give alms, to pray or to fast, they must do them with a right intention if they want God’s reward; if not, they shall only have human recognition.

II. ANALYSIS:

1/ Reading I: Prophets are given gifts by God so that they can fulfill their duties.

1.1/ Elishah asked to have a double portion of Elijah’s spirit: When the prophet Elijah knew that it is the time for him to go to God, he handed his prophetic mission to Elishah, his disciple. Elijah is the prophet who worked many miracles: He commanded to close the heaven door so that it shall not rain down for a long time; he made the Zarephath widow’s flour container and her olive jar not to run out until the famine is over; he commanded fire from heaven to consume the offerings and he called rain to come down, etc. God gave Elijah the power to work miracles so that he could help others to recognize their sins and to come back to God, not for him to threaten or to show off to others.

            Elishah had a feeling that his master is going to leave him soon so he hung on to his master and asked to have a double portion of his master’s spirit. Elijah said to his disciple, ““You have asked something that is not easy," he replied. "Still, if you see me taken up from you, your wish will be granted; otherwise not." As they walked on conversing, a flaming chariot and flaming horses came between them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. When Elisha saw it happen he cried out, "My father! My father! Israel's chariots and drivers!" But when he could no longer see him, Elisha gripped his own garment and tore it in two.”

1.2/ Elishah was also granted power to work miracles: Depended on this vision which Elijah was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind; the Jewish tradition believes the prophet Elijah didn’t die. They arrange two chairs in the temple each year on the Day of Atonement, one for Moses and the other for Elijah. They believe Elijah shall come back before the Messiah’s coming.

            When Elijah went up to heaven, he intentionally threw his coat back to Elishah. “Then He picked up Elijah's mantle which had fallen from him, and went back and stood at the bank of the Jordan. Wielding the mantle which had fallen from Elijah, he struck the water in his turn and said, "Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?" When Elisha struck the water it divided and he crossed over.”

            Elishah knew that he already had his master’s spirit. He could also work miracles as his master.

 

2/ Gospel: Do good works with a right intention.

           

            There are many works which are good in themselves, such as: to preach the Good News, to help the poor, to pray and to fast; but the Pharisees and the scribes made them bad because of their hypocrisy. Jesus generally warned his disciples about doing good works without a right intention before he went in details three main things of the Christian life which are: giving alms, praying and fasting. When we do good deeds, our intention must fix on God’s reward, not any other things; therefore, we shouldn’t do good deeds to acquire human recognition; but to let God, who comprehends all things, reward us.

2.1/ To give alms: is to use what God has given us to share with the unfortunate. Tobia’s father advised him these precious words: “Give alms from your possessions. Do not turn your face away from any of the poor, and God's face will not be turned away from you. Son, give alms in proportion to what you own. If you have great wealth, give alms out of your abundance; if you have but little, distribute even some of that. But do not hesitate to give alms; you will be storing up a goodly treasure for yourself against the day of adversity” (Tob 4:7-9).

            There are people who reluctantly give, who show off their richess, or who thirst for human recognition. Jesus warned his disciples to get rid of these bad intentions as follows: “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.” We can’t understand literally the expression, “do not let your left hand know what your right is doing;” because it can’t be happened. Jesus simply wanted to teach his disciples that they shouldn’t show their good works for others to see. There is a difference between to show off and to do good with a right intention. The latter doesn’t care for human recognition but cares for people to know God.

           

2.2/ To pray: is to raise one’s mind to God, to express feeling or to make a petition. The act of praying implies what is happening between the two parties: God and the one who prays, not with the third party. When one prays to attract attention, how they can concentrate on God! Therefore, Jesus advised his disciples: “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 said these words, Jesus didn’t prohibit the common prayers because he often went to the temple or the synagogues to pray with others. What Jesus said today only related to private prayer; don’t pray at public places to attract human recognition as the Pharisees did.

           

2.3/ To fast: is to intentionally live without food in a short period of time for a religious reason, such as: to repent and to ask for God’s forgiveness (Jon 3:5; Joe 1:14, 2:15); to ask for the Holy Spirit’s guidance (Acts 13:2); or to make a special petition (2 Sam 12:16). In order for one’s petition to be answered, prayer and good works must sometimes be accompanied with fasting (Isa 58:7); if not, God shall not hear one’s prayer (Isa 58:6).

            To fast for others to see by acting sad and gloomy is the hypocrites’ way. Jesus taught his disciples, “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 be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”

           

III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:                     

             - Our intention when doing good works is to have God’s reward. If we do these things for public recognition, God shall not reward us.

            - We should never use God’s given gifts for worldly purposes, only for our mission.

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