2 Kings 2:1,6-14
This is what happened when the Lord took Elijah up to heaven in the whirlwind: Elijah and Elisha set out from Gilgal, Elijah said, ‘Elisha, please stay here, the Lord is only sending me to the Jordan.’ But he replied, ‘As the Lord lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you!’ And they went on together.
Fifty of the brotherhood of prophets followed them, halting some distance away as the two of them stood beside the Jordan. Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water; and the water divided to left and right, and the two of them crossed over dry-shod. When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Make your request. What can I do for you before I am taken from you?’ Elisha answered, ‘Let me inherit a double share of your spirit.’ ‘Your request is a difficult one’ Elijah said. ‘If you see me while I am being taken from you, it shall be as you ask; if not, it will not be so.’ Now as they walked on, talking as they went, a chariot of fire appeared and horses of fire, coming between the two of them; and Elijah went up to heaven in the whirlwind. Elisha saw it, and shouted, ‘My father! My father! Chariot of Israel and its chargers!’ Then he lost sight of him, and taking hold of his clothes he tore them in half. He picked up the cloak of Elijah which had fallen, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan.
He took the cloak of Elijah and struck the water. ‘Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?’ he cried. He struck the water, and it divided to right and left, and Elisha crossed over.
Jesus said to his disciples:
‘Be careful not to parade your good deeds before men to attract their notice; by doing this you will lose all reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give alms, do not have it trumpeted before you; this is what the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win men’s admiration. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you give alms, your left hand must not know what your right is doing; your almsgiving must be secret, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.
‘And when you pray, do not imitate the hypocrites: they love to say their prayers standing up in the synagogues and at the street corners for people to see them; I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you pray, go to your private room and, when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in that secret place, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.
‘When you fast do not put on a gloomy look as the hypocrites do: they pull long faces to let men know they are fasting. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that no one will know you are fasting except your Father who sees all that is done in secret; and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.’
I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward
There is this Malay word “wayang” which translates to a traditional performance in the Malay language. It is a colloquial term and commonly used amongst my friends as a term to illustrate how somebody seeks to engage in outward behaviour to impress others e.g. one’s peers or superiors. Jesus reminds us in today’s gospel that such action is not necessary and could in fact be counter-productive if we want to receive our eternal reward.
The Pharisees wanted to show to the people that they were a very holy bunch of people and this meant that they had to show it through their external behaviour. Yet Jesus judges us on our hearts and the motivations of why we do so. In our lives, we are often motivated by various emotions to drive our actions. Sometimes it is for want of recognition. Maybe it could be due to pride or perhaps it could be a belief that we can definitely do better than others in our behaviours. The Gospel reminds us today of the need to identify what is the way to find the right motivation; through prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
These three actions have been traditionally given by the church as a means for us to modify ourselves and to give meaning to the mortification. This meaning is to unite with Jesus’s passion and the mystery of suffering. Amidst our busy schedule, I ask that we take time every day to pray to God for the clarity of mind to continue to serve Him in the way He wants us to. Without us worrying about putting on a show for others.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, let all our actions be grounded in the Truth of your Word.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all who continue to work for the cause of justice.