Tuesday, August 18, 2015

You must be careful: don’t let your professional success or failure — which will certainly come — make you forget, even for a moment, what the true aim of your work is: the glory of God!

“Be very careful not to allow partialities to spoil the beautiful work of love God has entrusted to us — giving in to likes and dislikes, treating differently people of different caste or creed. This could easily happen if we do not pray the work, doing it with Jesus, to Jesus and for Jesus. Only then the aim of our apostolate will be “to reveal and to communicate God’s life to all men” of whatever race, caste or creed. Also if you allow this partiality attitude to affect your dealings with the poor, it will also show itself in your dealings with your sisters in community and be a cause of much disunity.” – Mother Teresa

Gospel Text: (MT 19:23-30)
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich
to enter the Kingdom of heaven.
Again I say to you,
it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.”
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said,
“Who then can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said,
“For men this is impossible,
but for God all things are possible.”
Then Peter said to him in reply,
“We have given up everything and followed you.
What will there be for us?”
Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you
that you who have followed me, in the new age,
when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory,
will yourselves sit on twelve thrones,
judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters
or father or mother or children or lands
for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more,
and will inherit eternal life.
But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

I am sure preachers within every Christian tradition agonize over this text, trying to reconcile wealth and riches with discipleship. I don’t intend to go into that debate here. I think it is sufficient to say that Jesus saw the need to reach out beyond one’s needs and desires in order to adopt the right disposition if one wished to strive for the Kingdom of God and thus enter into it.

But Peter also names another dynamic that often puzzles people too. He speaks of the ‘recognition’ or ‘reward’ that a good disciple might desire or expect. Although the disciple may set out with an open heart, generous and willing to make sacrifices for the sake of the Kingdom, he or she is only human. Thus the need for recognition, even reward can surface and at times hold one’s attention powerfully.

The danger at that moment, much like that of the great heroes in various myths, much like the pursuit of riches, is that the desire for recognition can lead one away from the mission. One begins to seek reward rather than the growth of the Kingdom.

Jesus speaks to this very feeling and longing. He affirms that it is true that if one is to live one’s marriage, relationships, single life or life as a religious or minster – for the sake of the kingdom – then this may mean the loss of many things in order to generously give one energy, love and service to others.

But Jesus does suggest too that so often in life generosity and self-sacrifice are returned to the one who gives. We have all experienced this I am sure – love begets love, generosity begets generosity and we find that what we give is so often returned in excess to us. Perhaps in different ways, perhaps not even in a manner that is obvious at the time, but we do receive. It may be in the form of thanks, it may be that we see someone else freed, it may be that we rejoice in the accomplishment and goodness of another enabled to be like this because of our efforts – whatever we can take great satisfaction in these moments. So often too we discover reward in another powerful way – when one steps out towards the other be it child, friend, or stranger seeking to help them only to discover that we are the one being helped, inspired or carried by them or their example.

So a lesson for us today may well be that if we set out to make our lives a ‘continual service’ to those we love and to those who need us, then although it is not our goal or aim, we will receive back in return. Jesus saw this and experienced it himself, and he passes on his experience to us, that people respond to the good, that people are guided by and attracted to the light of kindness and compassion, and that when we love others unselfishly they will be inspired, enabled or moved to return such love. Love given freely may rebound to us, or it may radiate out and make the lives of still others better, but we will receive back gifts.

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