If you look to what other people think of you for your reward, says St. Ambrose, you have your reward here on earth—but you miss the reward of eternal life.
Clearly, blessed is the life that is not valued by the opinion of outsiders, but is known, as judge of itself, by its own inner feelings. It needs no popular opinion as its reward in any way; nor has it any fear of punishments. Thus the less it strives for glory, the more it rises above it.
For to those who seek for glory, that reward in the shape of present things is but a shadow of future ones, and is a hindrance to eternal life, as it is written in the Scriptures: “Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward” (Matthew 6:2). This is said of those who with the sound of a trumpet, so to speak, desire to make their generosity to the poor known to all the world. It is the same, too, in the case of fasting, if it is done only for outward show. “They have received their reward,” he says.
It is therefore part of a virtuous life to show mercy and to fast in secret, so that you may seem to be seeking a reward from your God alone, and not from others. For whoever seeks it from mankind has his reward, but whoever seeks it from God has eternal life, which no one can give but the Lord of Eternity, as it is said: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
–St. Ambrose, On the Duties of the Clergy, 2.1
IN GOD’S PRESENCE, CONSIDER . . .
How much of what I do for the Church is in fact a response to what I want other people to think of me?
Are there ways I could help that no one would know about?
Father, renew your perfect love in me, and teach me to see beyond the things of this world to your eternal Kingdom.
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