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)

All blessings in life we receive
There’s no way that we can repay;
In turn that’s the way we must give,
As God’s Word has shown us today.

On a Sabbath, Jesus went to dine 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

It’s just a small investment to give a party to the poor and the handicapped, but it guarantees 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. 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 took one summer vacation. The members of our club come from diverse strata of society: from wage earners, to students, to businessmen and professionals. We are all bound together by a common love for the sport or exercise of walking or running. Once a year, a big number of us hire a 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 some members who could not afford to come as a way of rewarding them for valuable contributions to the club. At the pool over some bottles of beer and wine 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 entertaining a hundred rich friends and relatives. When You said the poor will always be with us, we have come to understand that we must identify with them in order to be more charitable, and learn to be humble. Amen.

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