In the Gospel today, Jesus warns his listeners against doing their piety for others to see. The Greek word for to be seen is the root word for theater. What Jesus is saying is our acts of piety are not performances for others to see. It is also interesting he used the word hypocrite in condemning those who give alms for others to see, who pray for others to see, and who fast for others to see. The word hypocrite is used to describe an actor wearing a mask. The actor pretends to be another person. What Jesus is saying here then is our faith is not a performance. It is not about ourselves, but it is about God. This is why he said people who treat their faith as a performance would have received the adulation of their audience.
Jesus is not condemning a public show of faith. What he condemns is treating our faith as a performance. Paraphrasing Pope Benedict XVI, Being Christian is not an ethical choice or lofty ideals. It is a relationship with a Person and Event that leads us to a new horizon and decisive direction. If we think our faith is about doing something or believing something, we are also performing our faith in public. Faith is a relationship with Jesus Christ that leads us to change our lives, moving towards him, making choices so we can grow in our relationship with him. Faith is about what the Psalm tells us today: to hope in the Lord, to see the goodness of God, to accept God as our refuge: to love the Lord. If our actions do not lead us to these, then we are performing and not living our faith.
The First Reading again skipped some verses which does not give us the entire picture. But if we read the entire passage, we see Elijah telling Elisha to remain where they were on their journey and Elisha refused saying As the Lord lives, and as you yourself life, I will not leave you. And in the end, Elijah told Elisha tell me what I may do for you. To which Elisha said please let me inherit a double share of your spirit. This shows Elisha’s boldness because he is confident that his master will not condemn him for asking this.
Elisha shows us how we are to act with respect to our relationship with God. We act with loyalty to him. We go where he goes. We follow God wherever he goes. We boldly ask God for what we want. In Elisha’s case, he asked for double to spirit of Elijah. Elisha asks this not because he wanted to perform more miracles than Elijah, but he asks this so he can serve God more and lead more people back to God. Similarly, we can ask God boldly for what we want, as long as our desire is for his glory. Hebrews 4:16 tells us: Let us go therefore with confidence to the throne of grace: that we may obtain mercy and find grace in seasonable aid. God wants us to come to him, to know him as a Father, whom we can confidently approach in our time of need, so that we can give glory to him. God, as a Father, wants to show his children what he can do. It delights him to reveal himself to his children so they can see what he has in store for them.
Today, God calls us to come to him, to approach him boldly and not to be afraid, to ask him boldly, for what we need: to reveal himself to us so we can know him. We ask God to show his power to us, to help us through our lives so we can live for him.
Lord, I come to you, confidently, not because of what I have done, but because of who you are. You are my Father in heaven who delights in giving me good things. What better thing can I ask, than for you to reveal yourself to me through your Son Jesus. Let me see your power in my life. Free me from my sins. Free me from my worries. Free me from my fears. It is only in trusting you Lord, that I can know you. Come Lord, open my heart, that I may see you as you are.