At the beginning of today’s Gospel reading there are some words of advice. Those words have to do with practices of Piety or devotion. “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.” (Mt. 6:1) This advice follows through the next few paragraphs which have to do with alms giving, prayer, and other practices of devotion and the reward for such practices.
From an early age I had been taught that some of the early chapters of the Gospel according to Matthew, 5 through 7, are known as the Sermon on the Mount. Those words give to us some of the basic teachings of Jesus from early in his ministry. The teachings in today’s Gospel Reading are those which have to do with familiar practices of piety and worship and the rewards related with them
In the days of my childhood and early youth I did not give much thought to the rewards associated with those practices of piety and worship. I think I took them for granted.
It was later, when I was in seminary, studying the Gospels and other Scriptures that I began to learn more about the rewards associated with those practices described there.
Some of what I learned was in the classroom. Further application of the things I was learning could be found in sermons preached in the Seminary Chapel.
One of the things I learned was that the rewards for an outward show of piety all too easily can become illusory. In all the examples in today’s Gospel Reading the rewards of outward show were all illusory. True holiness is an inward quality to be treasured in the heart or soul.
Do you try to keep your piety, your sense of holiness, carefully hidden—to be shared only between you and God? That is what Jesus was preaching in the Sermon on the Mount!
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