Wednesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

Sketch by Brie Schulze

The prophet Elijah is one of very few people said to have been assumed into heaven.  There is of course the Blessed Virgin Mary, some speak of Moses, others of Saint John the Apostle.  The only one clearly indicated in the scriptures is the assumption of Elijah.  Not only is it a unique occurrence, it is also fairly dramatic with blazing horses and chariot.  As Elijah is taken up into heaven, he leaves everything behind – even the prophet’s mantle.  Even the amazing office of prophet is useless and of little importance in heaven.  When we come before God, we will appear in all our miserable plainness.  We will be naked in our broken personhood before the majesty of perfection itself.  The only light that will shine from our being is that light of faith and trust in God’s mercy that He Himself planted in our hearts.  The more we’ve trusted in that mercy in this life, the brighter we will shine at the moment of judgment.

Jesus provides teachings in today’s Gospel designed to help us look for the real value in our actions.  Even the most religious and pious actions are useless and vain if they are accomplished to impress others or even ourselves.  Our self-importance weighs down any good we may do.  Elijah demonstrates that in order to ascend directly to God, we have to be willing to drop whatever sign of importance we may be wearing.


Therefore, he who is everywhere does not dwell in all, and he does not even dwell equally in those in whom he does dwell. Otherwise, what is the meaning of the request made by Elisha that there might be in him double the Spirit of God that was in Elijah? And how is it that among the saints some are more holy than others, except that they have a more abundant indwelling in God? How, then, did we speak the truth when we said above that God is everywhere wholly present if he is more amply present in some, less in others? But it should be noticed with care that we said he is everywhere wholly present in himself, not in things of which some have a greater capacity for him, others less.1


Then Elijah responded: “You have asked for something difficult, but it will be done for you.” O precious inheritance in which more is left to the heir than was actually possessed, and the ones who receives the inheritance receives more than the giver owned! This is certainly a precious inheritance, which is doubled by some interest derived from merits when it is transferred from the father to the son! So Elijah, although he had a single spirit of holiness, left a double portion to Elisha. In an amazing way, he left more grace on earth for Elisha than he took with himself to heaven.2


Just as water always conflicts with fire and fire with water and such things can never dwell together simultaneously, so likewise egotism and virtue are opposed to each other and can never easily coexist in one and the same soul. Therefore egotism is to be expelled from our souls, and we must abide in Christ’s commandments.3


Alms may be given in the presence of others primarily to be seen by them, or they may be given in the presence of others but not to be seen, or they may be openly given in order to be seen but still not be seen, or they may be given quietly and still be seen. He is not focusing simply on the outward act done but the inward intent.4


Many people, you see, make a donation for the use of the poor in order to reap from the gesture the human praise and the renown of their contemporaries. The Lord shows that they have received the reward of their work in this age. For as long as they seek the glory of this age, they lose the reward of the future promise.5


Here the Lord is not speaking literally of the hands of the human body. Hands as such cannot know, having the senses neither of seeing nor or language. Rather, “on the right hand” means righteous deeds and “on the left” signifies sinful deeds or persons. Thus we read it written in the book of Kings that “hand” means people when it says, “Do I not have ten hands in Israel?”—that is, ten tribes of Israel. Therefore, there is no doubt that “on the right hand” means “the just” and “on the left” means “sinners,” according to what Solomon related: “The Lord acknowledges the divisions on the right; the perverse are those who are on the left.” The Lord makes very plain the meaning of this “right” and “left” in the Gospel when he declares that the just are to be placed at the right, the sinners on the left.  If something is to be accomplished according to the teaching of the Lord, then the right hand of the just must not know what the left is doing. That is, in order to labor religiously and faithfully, we should not boast in the sight of sinners and unfaithful people.6


Understand that he means the secret place of the heart rather than a location. For the Lord dwells in the recesses of your heart, not in a particular secret place. Remember that the Lord does not wish us to act in secret in order that our work may be invisible. Elsewhere he says, “Let your light shine so that others may see your good works and may glorify your Father who is in heaven.”  But it is the Lord who in due time will reveal. Every good thing becomes more pleasing when it is hidden by us but revealed by God. If you display yourself, there are few who will praise you, and few will understand, even if you should appear humble. The one who does understand this will lament you rather than praise you. If, on the other hand, God reveals you, no one will find fault, except perhaps an evil person, to whom a good person is displeasing. For it is impossible that the Lord would ignore the good work of a good person done in secret. God will make such a one known in this age and boast in him in the future, because the glory comes from God.7


  1. LETTER 187.17.  Conti, M., & Pilara, G. (Eds.). (2008). 1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther (p. 143). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  2. SERMON 84.2.  Conti, M., & Pilara, G. (Eds.). (2008). 1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther (p. 143). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  3. FRAGMENT 114.  Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 123). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  4. THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW, HOMILY 19.2.  Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 123). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  5. TRACTATE ON MATTHEW 26.4.2.  Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 124). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  6. TRACTATE ON MATTHEW 26.5.2–4.  Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 125). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  7. INCOMPLETE WORK ON MATTHEW, HOMILY 13.  Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 125). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
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