Without expecting anything in return
Jesus is at table, invited by one of the principal Pharisees of the region. Luke tells us that the Pharisees do not let up spying on him. Jesus, however, feels free to criticize the guests who seek the places of honor, and he even suggests to the host whom he should invite next time.
This exchange with the host bewilders us. With clear and plain words, Jesus lets him know how he should act: Do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors. But is there anything more legitimate or natural than strengthening our ties with the people who like us well? Did Jesus not do the same with Lazarus, Martha and Mary, his friends in Bethany?
At the same time, Jesus points out to him whom he should be thinking of: Invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind. The poor have no way to return the invitation. There is nothing to be expected from the crippled, the lame and the blind. That is why no one ever invites them. Is not this something normal and unavoidable?
Jesus is not rejecting family love or relationship with friends. What he does not accept is that these relationships are always top priority, privileged, exclusive. Jesus reminds the people who get into the dynamic of God’s kingdom, seeking a more human and fraternal world, that they should to put the welcoming of the poor and the needy ahead of interested relationships and social conventions.
Is it possible to live in a disinterested manner? Can we love without expecting anything in return? We are so far from Jesus’ Spirit that sometimes self-interest interferes even in our friendships and family love. Let us not be fooled. The path of gratuity is difficult and tough most of the time. We need to learn such things as these: give without expecting much, forgive without demanding anything, be more patient with unpleasant individuals, help others, thinking only of their good.
We can always cut back a little our self-interests, renounce once in a while our small advantages, put joy in the life of someone who is in need, donate some of our time and not reserve it always for ourselves, collaborate in small acts of service that are free of charge.
Jesus dares to say to the Pharisee who invited him, Blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to pay you. We have so forgotten this beatitude that many Christians have not ever heard of it. It contains, however, a message that is very dear to Jesus:
“Happy are those who live for others without receiving anything in return.
Your Father in heaven will repay you.”
August 28, 2016
22 Sunday in O.T. (C)
Luke 14, 1. 7-14