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 don’t let up spying on Jesus. Jesus, however, feels free to criticize those who are invited and who seek the places of honor, and he even suggests to the one who invited him whom he should invite next time.
It is this exchange with the host that leaves us dismayed. With clear and straight-forward words, Jesus lets him know how he should act: «Don’t invite your friends or your brothers or your relations or rich neighbors». But is there anything more legitimate or natural than spending time with the people who like us well? Hasn’t Jesus done this very thing with Lazarus, Martha and Mary, his friends in Bethany?
At the same time, Jesus points out to him in whom he should be thinking: «Invite the poor, the cripple, the lame, the blind». The poor have no way to return the invitation. There’s nothing to be expected from the crippled, the lame and the blind. That’s why no one ever invites them. Isn’t this something normal and inevitable?
Jesus doesn’t reject family love or friendship. What he doesn’t accept is that these relationships are always the first ones on the list, privileged, exclusive. For people who get into the dynamic of God’s Reign, seeking a more human and fraternal world, Jesus reminds that the welcoming of the poor and the needy must be before our interested relationships or our social conventions.
Is it possible to live in such a disinterested manner? Can we love without expecting anything in return? We are often so far from Jesus’ Spirit that even our friendships and our family love are influenced by self-interest. We mustn’t be deceived. The path of gratuity is almost always difficultly hard. We need to learn things like this: give without expecting much, forgive without demanding anything, be more patient with people hard to get along with, help someone just thinking in their good.
We can always cut back a little on our self-interest, renounce once in awhile our small advantage, put joy in the life of someone who’s in need, give up some of our time without being resentful, collaborate in small acts of kindness.
Jesus dares to say to the Pharisee who invited him: «You will be blessed, for they have no means to repay you». This beatitude has gone so unnoticed that many Christians haven’t ever heard of it. However it contains a message that’s very near and dear to Jesus’ heart:
«Happy those who live for others without receiving anything in return.
Your Father in heaven will repay you».
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf