It All Matters
“If we wish to make any progress in the service of God we must begin every day of our life with new eagerness. We must keep ourselves in the presence of God as much as possible, and have no other view or end in all our actions but the divine honor.” ~ St. Charles Borromeo
In the Jewish Faith Tradition, serving as a pallbearer for a friend or family member at their funeral is viewed as one of the most honorable, sacred and loving acts that you can perform.
Why is that?
Because you are doing a favor for them that they cannot in turn do for you, thus making it an act rooted in unconditional charity and love, one that seeks nothing in return. In our Gospel today (Luke 14:12-14), Jesus urges his followers to do the same:
“When you hold a lunch or a dinner,do not invite your friends or your brothers or sisters or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment.” Jesus tells them going on to say “Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."
Ostentatious hospitality in and of itself isn’t necessarily wrong or sinful, but Jesus‘ remark regarding repayment at the resurrection of the righteous was clearly made in order to serve as a teaching moment. The Pharisee members on hand were deluded into believing that these reciprocal invites that were volleyed back and forth amongst themselves would serve as good works in the eyes of God, which would in turn curry the Lord’s favor. Jesus makes it clear that this is not the case, for those engaged in such gratuitous acts have already received their reward in the form of a lavish reciprocity. Acts of selfless love, those which are devoid of ulterior motives or anticipated paybacks, this was what Jesus sought to engender within the hearts of the status-obsessed Pharisee Members, and in us as well.
Imagine if you will a world in which good works are done simply because they were good and pure and right, not with the expectation of receiving something in return. One can hardly watch the news for 15 minutes these days without one political party accusing the other of engaging in some form of illicit “quid pro quo.” Forget honest and altruistic politicians; I’d simply settle for a synonym for the phrase “quid pro quo.” I’ve begun to hear it my sleep.
Today’s Gospel is a reminder that Jesus marks what we do in each and every one of our interactions. Even these seemingly harmless and innocuous encounters are important. As Matthew Kelly points out in his book ‘The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic,’ “The truth is we are all changing the world. Every word, thought - yes, even your thoughts - and action changes the world in ways that echo throughout the world, touching people you will never meet, for ages to come.”
That’s a powerful sentiment, one which warrants some quiet time in reflection, preferably in Eucharistic Adoration. Are we meticulous in all that we do, even our thoughts? It all matters against the eternal backdrop and in reality, the most powerful acts of kindness are oftentimes witnessed by God and God alone.
So be it.
“Lord, may we be painstaking in all that we do, in our words, choices, thoughts and actions, so that we may always emanate your Son Jesus’ love. There’s is importance and meaning in everything; please let us never forget that. May altruism, charity and love of neighbor become our ultimate goal, eschewing ‘places of honor’ and accolades” ~ Amen