Enriched by the Poor

Luke 14: 12-14
Phil 2: 1-4 / Ps 131: 1-3

Humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also everyone for those of others.
(Philippians 2: 3-4)

For the blessings in life we’ve received
There’s no way that we can repay,
That is why in return we must give
To the poor and helpless today.

(On a Sabbath, Jesus was invited to a dinner at the home of one of the leading Pharisees.) He said to His host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, 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 righteous.” (Luke 14:12-14)

Reflection

What a small investment it is indeed to give a party to the poor and the handicapped, and be guaranteed a payback of eternal banquets in the kingdom of God! But was this really the quid-pro-quo arrangement that our Lord was proposing in order to teach His listeners to be generous and self-effacing? No. More likely, this lesson was a continuing indictment of men’s preoccupation with self-promotion (inviting only those with means or influence to maintain one’s social status), and extolling those who prefer to keep company with the humble. One invites the rich and powerful to exalt himself, but the other humbles himself by inviting the poor and the weak.

Those of us who have never known what it is like to be needy and underprivileged have much to learn from our poorer brothers and sisters. They can teach us about genuine gratitude, which has become an “endangered species” among our richer friends and relatives. We can also learn from them how to value many things in life that we often take for granted.

These precious lessons came to pass in one of the out-of-town trips that our running club take every summer vacation. The members of our club come from diverse strata of society: from wage earners, to students, to businessmen and professionals. We all share a common love for the sport or exercise of jogging and running. Once a year, 30 to 40 of us hire a big bus to travel to distant places of interest where we can run and frolic for a week-end. On this particular trip, some of us decided to subsidize the expenses of six members who could not afford to come as a way of rewarding them for their valuable contributions to the club. At the poolside over some bottles of beer and wine one evening, they all expressed their gratitude for this once-in-a-lifetime favor, one even tearfully relating it was his first time to swim in a real swimming pool, and sleep in an air-conditioned room. One could almost cut a knife through that moment of catharsis, which has become a memorable part of our trip, an enriching experience no money can buy, for which we will always be grateful.

Thank you, Jesus, for teaching us that an act of charity to one poor neighbor is more rewarding than inviting a hundred rich friends and relatives. Amen.

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