Richard Leonard | Aug 28 2007 - 10:38am | 1 comment
22nd Sunday One of the most basic human responses to anything new is to ask, "What’s in it for me?" We would like to think our motives are pure and our interests are for others, but there is often a nagging voice reminding us that selfish desires are never far from the surface. That said, we all know heroic individuals who care for sick spouses or children, who go to faraway places to give those in need their time and talent or who stay at home and do the same in their local neighborhood. That’s what makes them heroic. There is nothing in it for them; they are drawn by bonds of love, faith or by a desire to create a better world. There are at least two ways we can hear Jesus’ words in today’s gospel. The first is as a strong challenge about social justice. National boundaries mean nothing to God. All people are equal in God’s sight, so the banquet Jesus refers to has implications for how we share the riches with which we have been blessed with others in the world. The poor, crippled, lame and blind of our world are the majority of God’s children who mainly live in the Third World. They are our brothers and sisters. At the banquet of life Christians are called to give priority to the needs of these people, not only because they have a just claim on our resources, but also because they can’t do anything for us in return. They purify our motives. When we link our concern, time, talent, career, and money with these children of God, we tame that nagging question, "What’s in it for me?" with a firm reply, "Very little--except God’s justice." A somewhat comforting angle to take on this gospel is more psychological. Many of us, when we come to God at any time, try to give ourselves a make-over so that we might be more acceptable to God. Today’s Gospel reminds us that at Christ’s banquet, however, it’s not the poised and perfect who are most welcome, but the vulnerable. What does this mean for us who pray and celebrate the Eucharist? That God embraces those parts of us that are in greatest need of his love and healing--where we are poor, crippled, blind and lame. We know this it is true because if Jesus is telling us to host the poor and broken at our tables, then as the perfect host he must do exactly the same with us at the Eucharistic meal as well. When I was a child we referred to our finest clothes as our "Sunday best" and we wore them proudly to Mass. Not only did we look good, we acted the part as well. Everyone was on best behavior for the entire parish to see. Now, I have nothing against dressing with care and behaving well at Mass; it can be a sign of our self-respect, our courtesy toward others and our devotion to God. But is it truer that God cares about what’s going on inside us. We can never hide from God, especially at the Eucharist, because we have been invited to be here, not as we would like to be, but as we are. May the Eucharist, this taste of heaven’s justice, give us renewed courage to think beyond our self and national interests, and show to others the hospitality of God that has been lavished on us. May we discover that where is faith is concerned, that the real answer to "What’s in it for me?," is "More than we can ever hope or imagine." Richard Leonard, S.J.