Matthew Chapter 6
Doing good for God alone

1 Be careful not to make a show of your righteousness before peo ple. If you do so, you do not gain anything from your Father in heaven.

2 When you give something to the poor, do not have it trumpeted before you, as do those who want to be seen in the synagogues and in the streets in order to be praised by the people. I assure you, they have been already paid in full.

3 If you give something to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,

4 so that your gift remains really secret. Your Father who sees what is kept secret, will reward you.

5 When you pray, do not be like those who want to be seen. They love to stand and pray in the synagogues or on street corners to be seen by everyone. I assure you, they have already been paid in full.

6 When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father who is with you in secret; and your Father who sees what is kept secret will reward you.

[BOL] Our Father¡­

7 When you pray, do not use a lot of words, as the pagans do, for they hold that the more they say, the more chance they have of being heard.

8 Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need, even before you ask him.

9 This, then, is how you should pray:
Our Father in heaven,
holy be your name,

10 your kingdom come
and your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.

11 Give us today our daily bread.

12 Forgive us our debts
just as we have forgiven those who are in debt to us.

13 Do not bring us to the test
but deliver us from the evil one.

14 If you forgive others their wrongs, your Father in heaven will also forgive yours.

15 If you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive you either.

16 When you fast, do not put on a mis erable face as do the hypocrites. They put on a gloomy face, so people can see they are fasting. I tell you this: they have been paid in full already.

17 When you fast, wash your face and make yourself look cheerful,

18 because you are not fasting for ap pearances or for people, but for your Father who sees beyond ap pea rances. And your Father, who sees what is kept secret will reward you.

19 Do not store up treasure for yourself here on earth where moth and rust destroy it, and where thieves can steal it.

20 Store up treasure for yourself with God, where no moth or rust can destroy nor thief come and steal it.

21 For where your treasure is, there also your heart will be.

22 The lamp of the body is the eye; if your eyes are sound, your whole body will be in the light.

23 If your eyes are diseased your whole body will be in darkness. Then, if your light has become darkness, how dark will be the darkest part of you!

Set your heart on the kingdom

24 No one can serve two masters; for he will either hate one and love the other, or he will be loyal to the first and look down on the second. You cannot at the same time serve God and money.

25 This is why I tell you not to be worried about food and drink for yourself, or about clothes for your body. Is not life more important than food and is not the body more important than clothes?

26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow, they do not harvest and do not store food in barns, and yet your heav enly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than birds?

27 Can any of you add a day to your life by worrying about it?

28 Why are you so worried about your clothes? Look at the flowers in the fields how they grow. They do not toil or spin.

29 But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his wealth was clothed like one of these.

30 If God so clothes the grass in the field which blooms today and is to be burned tomorrow in an oven, how much more will he clothe you? What little faith you have!

31 Do not worry and say: What are we going to eat? What are we going to drink? Or: what shall we wear?

32 The pagans busy themselves with such things; but your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

33 Set your heart first on the kingdom and justice of God and all these things will also be given to you.

34 Do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.


Comments Mathew, Chapter 6

• 6.1 After the six opposites (¡°but I say to you¡±), Matthew gives us three examples of another secret without which we shall not see God: work for him alone without wanting anyone to know, and in such a way that we ourselves will have immediately forgotten what we have done.

Those who make a show. The expression appears three times with reference to good deeds, prayer and fasting. Jesus uses a word often translated as ¡°being hypocrites,¡± which refers in a general way to those who make a show, or who are shallow, and make fun of the things of God.

It is perhaps difficult not to want to be seen by others, but it is far more difficult to do good without looking at oneself and being satisfied because: ¡°I am good.¡± It is, nevertheless, the way of enabling us to enter into the secrets of God.

• 7. The value of prayer does not lie in the quantity of words and the mere repetition of formulas, as if accomplishing a task. The value of prayer lies chiefly in our inner attitude of faith and love of God. We should try to lift our mind and heart to God as a Father and a friend, a God who loves us and is always waiting for us to share a silent moment with him. To pray is not to talk much, but to surrender our lives into God¡¯s loving hands.

Jesus gives the Our Father to his disciples as the perfect prayer coming from the heart of God¡¯s children, expressing as it does, what they should ask and the order in which the requests should be made. Actually we have two texts of the Our Father; Luke¡¯s text is shorter (11:1). Many hold that Matthew gives a slightly enlarged formula and better composed which was generally used in the first Christian generation, but this is not at all certain. In Matthew¡¯s text there are twelve verses expressing seven petitions: two perfect numbers. Three (God¡¯s number) that refers to God, four (earth¡¯s number) that refers to our needs. In the language spoken by Jesus, the key word is come: Your kingdom come.

The contemporaries of Jesus used the word Heaven to signify God, because they would not pronounce his name. Jesus says likewise: Father in Heaven, meaning: God the Father.

For us the limitless sky by day and by night is the image of a wonderful world where God is everything. In calling on our Father in Heaven, we do not mean that he is far or near, above or below or inside. We only intend to raise our spirits to Him. We rec ognize that our words are not worthy, that our concerns are selfish and limited, when we compare them with the breadth of His thoughts and the generosity of His love. That we can address him and call him Father is not something natural, but a very special privilege. ¡°My Father,¡± says Jesus; also: ¡°Your Father.¡± For he is the only one, and we are adopted children, by the mercy of God who allowed us to be born again (Jn 3:1).

The Bible speaks of God, and also of the Name of God. All of creation is but a manifestation of God, and he fills this universe. He is not contained in it, nor is he in a determined place. Because of this, we speak of his Name as a way of designating his active presence, radi ance, and splendor which covers everything. It is rather like acknowledging that there is a distance between what we know of him and what he is.

Holy be your name! May your Name be known and proclaimed Holy! May your splendor and generosity be seen in those who become your children. May your perfection be recognized through their good works (5:16). May your presence and your riches be welcomed by those who keep your word, according to John 14:23. The Father only wants to pour out his holiness and happiness on the children he has chosen and loved. He wants to seal us with his Name so that, day and night, we will be united with him, like the Father and the Son are united by the Holy Spirit.

Your Kingdom come. With the coming of Jesus, that Kingdom has come near to us. God reigns in every place where people have known him through the teaching of Jesus. There he can act without danger of being misinterpreted for he is now known for what he is. The believers now perceive him, not as a God who imposes obligations, nor as a Savior more power ful than the evil ones, but they recognize him in the gift of his Son, in the humiliation of the Son and in their mutual love. From this discovery, love and mercy pour forth and, in time, we will see on earth some fruits of this King dom. The reconciled children of God are a leavening element in society, and the whole of humanity with its projects, labor, economic and political plans moves towards a com mon goal: everyone and everything must return to the Father.

Whether we are good, bad or indifferent, the Kingdom of God will come, with or without our help, because it is actually already here.

Your will be done. These are the words of Jesus in Gethsemane (Mt 26:39). This prayer condemns many of our prayers through which we want to force God to act. Some people consider themselves to have faith because they always wait for God to solve their problems. The children of God instead lift up their spirit to him so that God¡¯s will may be, at last, their own will.

On earth as in heaven. This applies to the previous three petitions. It reminds us that everything in this world that is created and subject to time depends on another, uncreated world, where time does not exist and which is nothing less than the mystery of God. There the Father, source of the divine being, enjoys his infinite perfection in the mutual gift of the divine persons. In him there is neither sadness nor resentment and before him are the elect: he sees them as they will be after the resurrection. He sees the universe unified in Christ and his will fulfilled and glorified by all. We, who live in time, are in anguish because of an imperfect situation, in a world in labor where evil appears to triumph. We pray that everything may come about according to the initial plan of God, as it truly will.

We ask the Father for the bread he has promised to those who listen to his word. Modern people believe that their material welfare depends only on their own effort. The Bible, however, says that it depends on both God and us. Alone we can bring some economic miracles about for a while, but we may waste the accumulated riches. Only by listening to the word of God (Dt 8:3) will people have bread and be able to distribute it. A person who expects from God, not his or her bread but our bread, will strive to find work, to work in useful ways, and to promote justice where he is working.

What should we say? The bread ¡°we need¡± or our ¡°daily¡± bread or sustenance? The original text uses a difficult word that has different meanings. Many have understood that the children of God feel the need of much more than what is asked for the body and that the eucharist was already meant as it is in the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves.

The Our Father speaks of debts that we must forgive (6:12). In 6:14, we read wrongs. Jesus considers debts and wrongs as the same thing. When we forgive someone who asks for forgiveness, we are not doing that person a favor, nor do we deserve any credit for doing it; we actually free ourselves from some rancor or hatred that is poisoning us. Inasmuch as we stick to our rights, we hold fast to this world. God wants to forgive us and bring us closer to him, but how can he if we remain anchored to the things of this world?

Jesus speaks to the poor who are accustomed to being burdened with debts, which many times they cannot settle. They are obliged to live together with neighbors they have not chosen. All this increases the occasions for offending one another. Many people today live very independent lives and hold as an ideal not to owe anything to anyone. This independence can make it harder for us to understand God¡¯s mercy to wards us, poor as we really are before God.

Do not bring us to the test. Thus speak those who know their weaknesses and little faith.

We will be more prudent if we know that the enemy is not simply evil, but the evil one. Somebody stronger than ourselves is watching to deceive us, to make us lose faith and fall, as soon as we feel sure of ourselves and abandon the means given by Jesus for perseverance in the faith and in the Church.

See another shorter text in Luke 11:1.

• 16. Here Jesus neither justifies nor condemns fasting. He himself fasted: 4:2; 9:15; 17:21. Fasting is unworthy when done to obtain human approval rather than God¡¯s.

All religions know fasting. It is a way of calling upon God, especially when great misfortunes come upon us (Jl 2:12); it befits people who feel guilty, and want to move to compassion the one who forgives them (Jon 3:5). It also teaches self-control and integrates our energies in preparation for divine communication (Ex 34:28).

Scripture puts limited emphasis on fast ing. The prophets asserted that fasting without justice towards the neighbor is of no use: Is 58; Zec 7:4.

From the time of Gandhi, persons and groups have also used fasting as a means of social pressure, as a political weapon to call attention to some demands. This is all right, although it is different from the religious fast of which Jesus speaks. The difference is that a religious fast is addressed to God, not to public opinion (Mt 6:18), and it entails an inner disposition of conversion and sorrow for personal sin on the part of the fasting person.

• 19. Do not store up treasures. The Gos pel says: ¡°Do not treasure treasures,¡± treasures meaning those savings held in reserve rather than something that is loved. For centuries the majority of human beings rarely had personal reserves: the family or the clan took charge of the reserve in times of adversity. Today each one is in charge of his own resources; it is perhaps better, but how do we escape the obsession of a secure future? Once more Jesus invites us to believe in the Providence of the Father: if we have his interests at heart, he will look after ours.

Store up with God Gospel says ¡°in Heaven¡±, and we know that Heaven is one of the names of God.

There also your heart will be. (In the Jewish culture the heart is where judgments and decisions are made). I do not possess things but they possess me and by degrees impose on me a certain life-style.

There also your heart will be. It is this certitude that motivates any effort made towards ¡°evangelical poverty.¡± It is a question of being as free as possible for action and for love. Jesus calls us to disinterested action and at the same time warns us against inordinate attachment to persons, to ideas and possessions: we are to be ready for anything but must never get attached to the fruits of action.

• 22. Here eye is the conscience. To be bright-eyed signifies generosity, to be dark-eyed signifies meanness. Jesus emphasizes what he has just said: a misinformed conscience leads us astray and turns us in on ourselves.

• 24. No one can serve two masters. This opening line helps us understand what follows, that Jesus wants us to be free, not of concerns but of all worries, in order to serve God.

Scripture had already taught that we must choose between God and false gods. Jesus affirms that money is a false god, because it offers happiness and security for the future, but robs us of our only riches, that is, the present time. Caught up in making money, we are unable to live truly and freely; we neglect our personal growth and family life, keep silent before evil and lie. We ignore our neighbor and grovel be fore the powerful.

Why are you so worried? After worrying much because we do not have money, or because we are having a hard time, or because our work is being delayed, we are ashamed at meeting simple persons who share the little they possess with others poorer than they, without feeling sad or thinking they have done something great. Liberation is the work of God throughout history, and we, shall we have enough faith to free ourselves from so many worries?

The comparison with the flowers and the birds does not mean that we can fold our arms and be idle, because when God gave us arms and brains, it was for us to use them. Rather Jesus teaches that, if God takes care of and beau tifies the smallest of creatures, how much more will he care for us that our lives may be beautiful and perfect.

Set your heart first on the Kingdom. It is a matter of concrete realities: the kingdom means the transparentness of God in our life; his justice is a ¡°putting in order¡± under his attention of all that we are and all that we do. A risk to run for a young person, or a couple: to begin to think of the future, family and apostolic activity according to the criteria of the Gospel, no longer under pressure of Malthu sian fear or the race to maintain their life-style.