“And Jesus said, ‘Be careful not to parade your uprightness in public so as to draw attention to yourselves. If you do, you will lose all the reward given by your Father in heaven. So when you give alms; do not do so with the sounding of trumpets, like the hypocrites do in the houses of worship and in the marketplaces so that they might win the admiration of others. In truth, they have had their reward. But rather when you give to the poor, do so quietly for your alms-giving must be done in secret. Then your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you…. Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor wormwood destroys them and thieves cannot break in and steal. For wherever you treasure is, there will be your heart as well.'” – Matthew 6:1-4, 20,21
Greyfriars’ Abbey is a beautiful place, beautiful in its simplicity and timelessness and how it is in harmony with the natural setting on which it rests, as if the Abbey were but one more aspect of God’s Creation. Through the decades, the Brothers and Novices have been faithful in nurturing forth the heavenly dimensions of this earthly realm. Now in contrast, when I venture into the nearby inner city, midst the towering skyscrapers and asphalt streets, midst the angry traffic both on wheels and on foot, midst the delivery trucks bringing in more and more stuff while the garbage trucks haul out the overflow of refuse, midst all this concrete and steel, noise and confusion created by the relentless busyness of the human enterprise, I find my soul weeping, aching, choking, looking for traces of heaven in this earthly congestion. Sometimes it ALMOST feels like Hell when I venture into the city, but I say ALMOST, for when I get to the soup kitchen and help feed the homeless, the heavenly traces begin to reappear.
Someone once said, “We tend to live with the Hell of our own creation!” And the more I experience the darker side of humanity, the more those words make sense. Angry people create an angry world; pessimistic people create a pessimistic world; condemning people create a condemning world; a fearful people create a fearful world; violent people create a violent world. One need only to take long and honest look at what we take for entertainment in these times to witness the world, the way of life, the value system we have created.
But now, I want to lift up the alternative to this maxim …“But we also tend to live with the Heaven of our own creation … but, by definition, not merely of our own creation but also by means of the Creative Presence of God !”
Jesus taught, “When you give to the poor, when you fast, when you pray … do so in the secret places so that you will receive the reward of God.” That notion of “receiving the reward of God” has always perplexed me. What is the “reward” of God? Jesus at the end of this series of teachings ends with the words …“Store up for yourselves treasure in heaven …For wherever your treasure is, so will your heart be also.” For many an hour, for a day, for many a week, I have been contemplating what Jesus meant by “the reward bestowed by God.”
I talked this through with my Spiritual Director, a soul I find so mature in the ways of Christ. At a certain point, I asked, “What is this reward we receive from God when give alms to the poor in secret?” Out of the Holy Quiet, he gave me this mission. “Brother Anthony, go and get ten dollars coins. Then one by one, give them quietly to ten needy souls. And then … look for the reward that comes to you from God.” And this I did. Slowly, over a number of days, I placed those coins one by one in the hands of ten people in need. And then I listened … oh, I so listened … to the whisperings within my soul. What was the reward that I found?
At the end of this mission, I returned to my Spiritual Director. And he asked, “Brother Anthony, what happened when you gave your alms?”
I answered, “First, I learned how much I was afraid to let go of those coins.”
My Director then responded, “Yet, I see you survived.”
Then I said, “I began slowly to enjoy more and more the goodness found merely the act of sharing.”
To which my Director responded, “Giving is good for the soul.”
Then I said, “I found my fear of being depleted was slowly replaced with the joy of giving more.”
The Director responded, “God also finds joy in giving more.”
And then I said, “I then came upon a rather surprising experience …”
“And what was that?” he asked.
I searched for the more perfect words … and then said, “I felt the Presence of Heaven.”
With this, my Spiritual Director nodded, smiled, then concluded ...”And as to your question … what is the reward we receive from God?”
Then we spent some quiet time in prayer.
Brother Anthony of the Cross
For the latest installment of the ongoing story, The Mystic Realms of Shadow Fox, just click … https://greyfriarsabbey.wordpress.com/the-mystic-reams-of-shadow-fox/ … The installments are separated by ********* with the latest being at the end (obviously).