November 3, 2008
Monday of the Thirty-First Week in Ordinary Time
Luke 14: 12-14
Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees. He said to the host who invited him, "When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."
Introductory Prayer: Christ Jesus, fill me with your grace today. My desire is to be more like you, but you know how weak I am. Nevertheless, I trust that you will give me what I need to fulfill those tasks you will present me with this day. Lord, I love you.
Petition: Lord, let me be attentive to the material and spiritual needs of those around me.
1. Invite the Poor
With the effectiveness of various governmental social programs, it would seem that there is no need for the Church or individuals to concern themselves with helping the less fortunate. It should be sufficient to refer them to the appropriate governmental program, or in its absence, establish a new one. However, Pope Benedict XVI reaffirms that charity will always be necessary. No matter how just a society is, there will be people in need. Furthermore, man’s needs go beyond the material: All need “loving personal concern” (cf. God Is Love, 28). It is not simply a handout that matters; rather, we must show compassion – a willingness to “suffer with them.” In doing so, we treat the poor as persons, and their human dignity is reaffirmed in moments of difficulty.
2. Poor Little Rich Kid
It’s very important to recognize that poverty takes on many forms. Financial poverty is real and quite serious, but spiritual poverty is worse: “For what will it profit a man if he gain the whole world but forfeits his life?” (Matthew 16:26). Christ made himself materially poor, first by becoming man and then by living poorly to make us spiritually rich (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 472). It is often those who have all that they desire materially who suffer most from existential anxiety. Some of the world’s richest countries also have the highest suicide rates. This is often the more difficult poverty to address: The person often won’t even recognize his need, and even less frequently recognize the solution. It is also to these poor that the missionaries of the 21st Century must reach.
3. Supernaturally Selfish?
It’s been said that if we do acts of charity simply to receive a heavenly reward, our intention isn’t pure. It is being selfish, but with a little more foresight: Eventually our acts of charity will bring us benefit. While there is an aspect of reward in heaven – “You will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:14) – it is equally true that living charity is simply our duty (cf. Luke 17:10). However, it is precisely when we exercise charity that God has a golden opportunity to purify our intention a little bit more. We may start doing good to others for quite selfish reasons: the praise we receive or the satisfaction we feel. As we continue being charitable, however, there will be plenty of times when we aren’t praised or thanked or receive much natural gratification from our kind deeds. Then, as the superficial motivations for loving are peeled away, we’re left with a purer love for God and neighbor. It is precisely when we do our actions for love of God that our actions reach perfection (cf. John Paul II, The Splendor of Truth, 78).
Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, I am poor and in need of your grace. However, I know that it is in giving that we receive. Help me to open my mind and my heart to the needs of my neighbor. Help me to see you and to serve you in them.
Resolution: I will perform at least one act of kindness today for someone in need.
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