"When you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."
In today’s Gospel, Jesus talks about how to create a guest list and He teaches us that giving has a certain quality to it. The way we give and the spirit in which we give is what is important. True giving must have "no strings" attached…..no expectations of getting anything in return.
Years ago, when I began to discern my invitation from God to become a deacon, I wanted to be of service to God’s people most in need. The first time I went to help serve a meal at our local homeless meal site, I was told that the first, and most important thing I needed to do, was to sit down and have dinner with the members of our homeless community that were present that night. And later I would be given the opportunity to serve.
As I became willing to share a meal and spend time with my brothers and sisters,to get to know their stories, and allow them to get to know me, to really enter into each other’s lives, something profound happened to me. I was able to put a "face" to a "condition." And as a result, my perspective changed. "Homeless" was no longer a concept, but a person–Jesus with skin! "Whatever you do for these, the least of our brothers and sisters, you do for Me." (Matt. 25) How blessed I was that day. The same experience has been true in my prison ministry. I discovered Jesus behind the walls.
How can we invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind into our daily lives?
IN OUR OWN LIFE: Am I willing to invite someone to dinner who is alone and has no family? Am I willing to reach out to a neighbor who is crippled by fear, anxiety? Am I willing to visit someone who is poor in spirit at a nursing home?
AT OUR EUCHARISTIC CELEBRATION: Do we welcome "the crippled, the lame" to our churches by being wheel-chair accessible? Do we provide sign language interpreters for the deaf? Large print material for the visually impaired?
True acts of love are not done so that you can benefit from them. They are done because the benefit is in being able to do them. Yes, you are repaid and rewarded for doing good for those who can’t repay us because in doing so you "will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."
However, as you do those acts of love and kindness, you will be rewarded in the here and now as well in ways that you will not understand until you look into the eyes of those you are blessing.
Deacon Brian Clements was formerly on the staff of Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center in Sierra Madre, California