Is there such a thing as an unselfish act? It was an argument between Phoebe and Joey on “Friends”–“The One where Phoebe Hates PBS.” I suppose we need to consider their definition of an unselfish act, or a selfless good deed, “one in which someone benefits while the person performing the act receives nothing in return.” It’s not so definitive really. Even Jesus’ suffering and death, which was a cup he prayed to his Father he did not want to drink, was an act done in obedience to God which restored him to the glory he had before the foundation of the world … or something like that. But even as children, it brings us satisfaction when we please our parents and elders. So there are primary consequences and secondary consequences. Secondary consequences such as personal satisfaction cannot always be avoided. But our ultimate motivation for the good that we do should still and always be to please God. Seeking the approval of others, although we aren’t always willing to admit it, often becomes the primary consequence we seek, and Jesus reminds us such good deeds don’t achieve God’s approval at all.
Elijah was a spectacular personality in Israel’s history. Many of his very public confrontations with King Ahab and Jezebel would garner blockbuster ratings if they were publicized in our golden age of media. But such public displays of divine power and influence betray a deep interior life, a close connection with God that fueled the blazing fire that was his ministry as a prophet. Jesus too did many public displays of God’s power throughout his ministry of teaching and healing. But we are aware of his close connection with God, an interior life that fueled his ministry as God’s anointed. And in today’s Gospel passage Jesus encourages us to cultivate our interior life, that connection with God that no one but ourselves and God can see. To seek anyone else’s approval would no longer be about God’s glory. But if we truly desire God’s glory above all, whether or not we get anyone else’s approval matters little. Our good example is meant to help lead others to God. So we strive to do what pleases God, and hopefully our good example also leads others to God.
Today’s mass was offered for the repose of +Gary Kessler.
Rolo B Castillo © 2020