Kempis calls for good works to be done with love, otherwise they do not benefit the doer (or the entire Body of Christ), even if that act is “little and contemptible” (a better translation for modern ears is “small and trivial”) (1,15). A loving gift means that the giver is doing it for the right reasons (love of God and neighbor without expecting recompense) and the recipient gets the benefit of noting the intention and disposition of the benefactor and hopefully being moved by these.
In the case of today’s Gospel (Mk 7:31-37), there is no question of Jesus’ motivation in charitable works. And, despite His admonition to tell no one, the healed man and the witnesses who brought Jesus this person (understandably) cannot contain themselves. Thus, Jesus’ reputation as a miracle worker exploded, making His life more difficult, certainly, but I suspect He did not mind too much — Jesus was known to take pity on the people so He would not hesitate to lift them up in word and deed, even when they came in droves and pressed in on Him. Recall this episode in Matthew:
Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness. At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. (Mt 9:35-36)
Jesus’ expresses compassion for one deaf man and all the onlookers are blessed by it; and not only them, but also, undoubtedly, everyone back home, every visitor, every passer-by. How “fruitful” (as Kempis puts it) did this one act become!
This is worth us keeping in mind as well. Not that we should do things for show, or for accolades, or to gain fame and recognition, but because it is what we are called to do. Even our “little” good works, done with great love, build up the Church (the Body of Christ alluded to earlier), often in ways unknown to us in this life. No matter, because through our consistent faithfulness, we are ultimately able to
rejoice because your names are written in heaven (Lk 10:20).
Healing of a Deaf Mute (1425-1430) by unknown
(source: Ottheinrich-Bibel, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Cgm 8010)