Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Verbum Dei, Part I

Wow, this sounds like the beginning of a Wicket Gate ongoing feature on the Word of God! And it is. It's high time we start looking at Scripture passages on this blog with the desire to know God better. Verbum Dei (the Word of God) will feature short passages with some reflection. That's all. All input is welcome.

Every now and then the Word feeds me something I had never noticed before, or maybe I had noticed but it never "hit home" until one day. One such passage is Jesus' teaching in Luke 14:12-14.

"When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just."

What a fascinating teaching on 'downward mobility'! The Lord speaks of being repaid as if it were a punishment: "LEST they also invite you in return and you be repaid." Rather than taking in those you love or who are well-off, he compels us to invite poverty and ill-stricken people to our tables, the reason being "BECAUSE they cannot repay you."

This is just like the Savior, who left his heavenly glory and majesty to condescend into the gutters of the earth to serve wretched sinners like you and me his Bread of Life and Living Water. We mustn't, however, take this as a literal condemnation of entertaining our loved ones. Jesus is saying that in regards to charity and compassion, setting out a feast for our family and friends proves nothing. That's just being civil and polite. As usual Jesus criticizes social convention, not because it is necessarily evil but because it's not as precious as we believe it to be. Entertaining rich people with the expectation of being repaid is not hospitality, but rather "commercial exchange", as one commentator put it.

True charity is spending money on a feast for those who could never repay you. Remember what the Lord said in a similar teaching? "But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you... For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt 5:44, 46-48).

We were poor, lame, and blind, and Jesus invited us to supper. We were his enemies, and "WHILE WE WERE ENEMIES we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son" (Rom 5:10).

Friends, it is impossible to repay him who saved us. Why should we expect compensation for our love?