I’m pretty sure that most of my fellow humans have, at some point, looked at a person who seemingly did nothing but somehow got ahead – got the job, got the girl (or the guy), got the promotion, got the recognition, got the life – and either scratched his or her head in disbelief or let out an internal howl at the injustice of it all. Some people just seem to be born with the "keys to the kingdom."
But it is God’s unconditional love that is the supreme balm for and leveler of all the human hierarchies and reward systems that tear apart, confound or stiffen our hearts and make us feel like we can never be, or have, enough.
With God, it turns out, we don’t have to work like a dog to gain His love; we don’t have to prove ourselves to get the reward. There is no spiritual quid pro quo in which if we do X (fill in the blank) then God credits us as a righteous person. No, the source of our goodness is not us or even our actions, but God. And it is through our belief in God that His goodness takes root in us and creates magnificence in the world. What a relief it is to know that there is no Cosmic Ledger against which we will never measure up. Even, or especially, our sins are forgiven because we are loved; because, flaws and all, we hold onto our faith.
In the Gospel, Jesus reminds his own chosen disciples to beware the hypocrisy of the Pharisees who think they possess the "inside track" to the Divine. There is nothing secret, elusive or exclusionary about God. If the smallest of God’s creatures is known intimately by Him, then how much more are we known to God? And by "we," I mean you and me.
The responsorial Psalm today says it all: I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation. The way to God and the truest reward is not for the other more fortunate guy or the one who does all the right stuff. It is for each of us who chooses, against all odds and often in pain, to go to God in our belief and our willingness to love.
Nancy Nickel ([email protected]) is director of communications at the Passionist Development Office in Chicago, Illinois.