To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Cor 9:6-11; Mt 6:1-6,16-18
Aloysius de Gonzaga was born in Castiglione, Italy in 1568. His father wanted him to join military service, but by the age of nine Aloysius had decided on a religious life, and made a vow of perpetual virginity.
A kidney disease prevented St. Aloysius from a full social life for a while, so he spent his time in prayer and reading the lives of the saints. Although he was appointed a page in Spain, Gonzaga kept up his many devotions and austerities, and was quite resolved to become a Jesuit. His family eventually moved back to Italy, where he taught catechism to the poor. When he was 18, he joined the Jesuits, after finally breaking down his father, who had refused his entrance into the order. He served in an hospital during the plague of 1587 in Milan, and died from it at the age of 23, in 1591, after receiving the anointing from Robert Bellarmine.
He was canonised in 1726 and is regarded as the patron Saint of youth.
The text chosen for today is from part of Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. It concerns three pious practices that were prevalent at the time of Jesus: almsgiving, prayer and fasting. These are used as examples of what true and false righteousness means. In each case, after mention of the pious practice, the Matthean Jesus explicates how it must not be done and why, and then goes on to explain how it must be done and why. In each case there is a contrast between public and secret and between external and internal.
Jesus uses hyperbolic language when he speaks of how almsgiving must not be done and uses similar hyperbole when he states how it must be done. Almsgiving must not be ostentatious but in humility and secret. When speaking of prayer, a distinction is made between prayer which is done for show and prayer which stems from the heart. The former makes itself an end in itself, the latter regards prayer as a mean to reach God. Finally, in the third pious practice, fasting, a distinction is made between fasting that is done to impress others and fasting that is motivated by an inner conviction. If one is convinced from within, then one will want it to be as inconspicuous as possible.
The reason for the choice of this Gospel text is because Aloysius understood completely the words of Jesus. His motivation to do good came from within. His desire to serve the poor and the sick was without expectation of reward. The austerities he practiced were for the sole reason of ‘feeling with others’. His reaching out to the plague ridden of his time was because it was a need and he was willing to do all that he could to cater to that need. Indeed, Aloysius internalised every pious practice, because of which his righteousness was pleasing in the eyes of God.