“All their works are performed to be seen.” Do you know people like this? It seems they live as if a camera were constantly on, and they are always “performing.” Because their attention is only on themselves and they are marinating in compliments and attention, their company is not very enjoyable. The sad truth is that they aren’t truly happy, because they know that the compliments and attention they receive have come through subtle manipulation, not sincerity.
You may also know people who are actively doing good and serving others, but it seems they talk too much about all the good they do and fail to acknowledge the good of others. Their “good deeds” are waved like a banner of virtue-signaling to announce that others just don’t care as much as they do. They are propping up their own egos with their list of charitable works.
We have all experienced the desire for recognition, praise, even admiration; this is part of our fallen human nature. And while true good deeds should certainly be acknowledged, we make ourselves the recipient of our own “gift” if we give so that we receive praise from others! When the desire for recognition is the basis of our choices and actions, we are slaves to the opinions of others, sometimes to the point of protecting our sense of superiority by humiliating others.
Jesus came to set us free. Free from sin, error, and our dependence on the opinions of others. Free to recognize Truth, to love fully. Truly free.
He tried to win over the Pharisees and help them to freedom, but they were enslaved by their pride. So Jesus points out the dangers of their position and maneuvering: they were very attached to what others thought of them and in a position to manipulate those opinions. It was a dangerous game, and they were in a bad place. They were the elite of God’s people, but by glorying in their own sense of superiority, they blinded themselves so that they could not even recognize the Messiah among them.
Jesus contrasts this attitude with the attitude his own followers must have: to see each person as a brother in Christ, to serve all others rather than maneuvering to be served, to humble ourselves even in our good works and successes! Because every success comes from using the talents that have been given to us in circumstances that are largely beyond our control, not from ourselves alone. We are not here to make a name for ourselves, but to glorify God’s Name.
Jesus teaches us that if we promote and protect and prefer ourselves and prop ourselves up on the opinions of others, we will ultimately be humbled by the truth. But if we willingly recognize the truth of what we are and seek God’s will for our lives, we will reach the exalted place which He has prepared for us. The way to climb up to God is to bow down.
Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including newly ordained Father Rob and seminarian Luke ;-), and two grandchildren. She is a Secular Discalced Carmelite and has published five books and many articles. Over the last 25 years, she has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE. Currently, she serves the Church as a writer and voice talent for Catholic Radio, by publishing and speaking, and by collaborating with the diocesan Office of Catechesis, various parishes, and other ministries to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Her website is https://www.kathryntherese.com/.