“You will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous”

Be careful who you show kindness to, Jesus tells us in Luke 14:12-14.

On a sabbath 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 sisters
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.”

It has been a frequent theme with Jesus that when we do things for which we will be rewarded on earth, we have already be rewarded and no reward will be given in Heaven. So He says in this passage.

Jesus advises the  host of dinner at the home of Pharisee, don’t invite people to a meal who can reward you for it, invite people who can’t. Thus you will be rewarded in Heaven later.

So this lesson applies to us, as well. If we do things only for those who can reward us in this life, we shouldn’t expect reward in the afterlife.

Jesus never seemed to do things for reward, period. He healed and consoled and aided people out of love, and perhaps that’s a lesson, too. If we do things for others, especially for the poor, the disabled, the sick, the marginalized, the widowed and orphaned — all those whom society casts aside — not for whether there is repayment or reward but because we share Jesus’s love, then greater still should be our reward in Heaven.

It still amazes me the fascination people have for celebrity and people of power. We lavish not only attention on them, but great banquets and feasts. And yet when there is a call to aid the least of our brothers and sisters, so often the response is tepid or derisive. Jesus teaches us to open our hearts and our hospitality and our care to the least among us. Are people not aware or do they don’t care that at stake is repayment at the resurrection of the righteous?

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“I will not reject anyone who comes to me”

God interacts with us in faith a couple of different ways, we find in John 6:37-40. And it’s good news.

Jesus said to the crowds:
“Everything that the Father gives me will come to me,
and I will not reject anyone who comes to me,
because I came down from heaven not to do my own will
but the will of the one who sent me.
And this is the will of the one who sent me,
that I should not lose anything of what he gave me,
but that I should raise it on the last day.
For this is the will of my Father,
that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him
may have eternal life,
and I shall raise him on the last day.”

Jesus makes a bold promise here. Everyone whom the Father gives to His Son, Jesus, will come to Him, and Jesus will not reject them if they come. You can debate whether we come willingly or it is predestined, but I read it that the Father leads us to His Son and when we follow Jesus accepts us when we come willingly.

Now, some suggest that we are saved merely through faith. No acts of faith are required, all you have to do is say, “I believe.” In fact, Jesus says here, “Everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life.” But it’s one thing to say you believe, even read the words and tell yourself and God that you believe. But isn’t it the acts of faith that demonstrate whether you truly believe? It’s one thing to say you believe, but if you don’t do as Jesus teaches, if you don’t do as Jesus did, really, where is your faith?

So, as important as “I will not reject anyone who comes to me” is, it’s just as important that Jesus says “everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life.”

Thus, it’s important that we follow the Father’s lead to Jesus, it’s important that we accept Jesus’s invitation to faith, and it’s important that we act on that faith. Then, says Jesus, “I shall raise him on the last day.”

Glory to God!

“Woman, you are set free of your infirmity”

Jesus challenges the leader of a synagogue in Luke 13:10-17 to cure a woman on the Sabbath, to say, now is the time.

Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the sabbath.
And a woman was there who for eighteen years
had been crippled by a spirit;
she was bent over, completely incapable of standing erect.
When Jesus saw her, he called to her and said,
Woman, you are set free of your infirmity.”
He laid his hands on her,
and she at once stood up straight and glorified God.
But the leader of the synagogue,
indignant that Jesus had cured on the sabbath,
said to the crowd in reply,
“There are six days when work should be done.
Come on those days to be cured, not on the sabbath day.”
The Lord said to him in reply, “Hypocrites!
Does not each one of you on the sabbath
untie his ox or his ass from the manger
and lead it out for watering?
This daughter of Abraham,
whom Satan has bound for eighteen years now,
ought she not to have been set free on the sabbath day
from this bondage?”
When he said this, all his adversaries were humiliated;
and the whole crowd rejoiced at all the splendid deeds done by him.

When is the right time to do the right thing? That is essentially Jesus’s message here.

Jesus has found a woman who has suffered at the effects of an evil spirit for 18 years, and the leader of the synagogue wants Him not to cure her because it’s the Sabbath. If bringing her relief is not the right way to observe the Sabbath, to glorify God, then what is? Recall that in another story in the Gospels, the disciples asked Jesus if a man was blind because he or his parents had sinned, and Jesus said the man wasn’t blind because of anyone’s sin but to glorify God. Anytime we can show the compassion and mercy and love of God is a time to glorify God, even on the Sabbath.

People find the darnedest reasons not to help one another, not to share God’s compassion, mercy, and love with each other. We may do it for our family or our closest friends (or we may not), but he farther we are in our relationships the farther we get from helping each other. “Why should I pay for their health care?” “Get a job!” “We can’t afford it.” “We can’t afford it right now.” “That’s not the government’s job.” “Let charities do it.” “Let the churches do it.” “They should be more responsible.” “It’s not my problem.” “Now isn’t the time.” These and more. And they’re all excuses, not reasons.

The leader of the synagogue tried to stop Jesus because He was doing “work” on the Sabbath. But it was just an excuse. And Jesus showed the leader that what He was doing was no less important than the everyday things the leader did on the Sabbath, yet Jesus was giving relief to a suffering person.

“Now isn’t the time”? If now isn’t the time, then there will never be a time. And all the other excuses for not helping others will be similar. It’s never your problem — but in God’s eyes, it is your problem. Because God calls on you to love your neighbors. And Jesus set the example in the way He cured others, the way He served others, the way He loved others. To firmly say, “Woman, you are set free of your infirmity.”

If you think people suffering from disasters isn’t a call-to-action from God to help them, you are wrong. If you think seeing a homeless person on the street isn’t a call-to-action from God to help them, you are wrong. If you think the poor, the elderly, the widowed, the orphaned, the imprisoned, the disabled, those back from war, the disenfranchised aren’t calls-to-action from God, then God help you, because they are. Jesus says so in the Gospels.

This reading isn’t about hypocrites, it’s about not using something like the Sabbath to keep from being charitable and compassionate and merciful — and loving — to others. There but for the grace of God go you. No matter who you are or your station in life.

I may be preaching to the choir, here. But this would be a much better world if we stopped judging others for their condition and started helping them get over it. Love can make the world go round.

Glory to God!

“You hypocrites!”

Are we as Christians hypocrites? Jesus teaches us in Luke 12:54-59.

Jesus said to the crowds,
“When you see a cloud rising in the west
you say immediately that it is going to rain–and so it does;
and when you notice that the wind is blowing from the south
you say that it is going to be hot–and so it is.
You hypocrites!
You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky;
why do you not know how to interpret the present time?

“Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?
If you are to go with your opponent before a magistrate,
make an effort to settle the matter on the way;
otherwise your opponent will turn you over to the judge,
and the judge hand you over to the constable,
and the constable throw you into prison.
I say to you, you will not be released
until you have paid the last penny.”

Crying out, “You hypocrites!” may seem a bit harsh. We are used to hearing Our Lord Jesus Christ yelling that to the scribes and Pharisees, but to the people? But the Old Testament has lots of references to God’s chosen people as “stiff-knecked” or stubborn people. And I think it’s clear that here Jesus is lamenting His followers’ tendency to resist the change of heart necessary to reach the Kingdom of God. “Why do you not know how to interpret the present time?” He says. “How do you not know what I am saying?” might be another way saying it.

Then comes the clear message. “Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?” And He gives a clear example. “If you are to go with your opponent before a magistrate, make an effort to settle the matter on the way.” This isn’t a warning about settling your debt or go to prison! This is a lesson on how to live with your neighbor. Live rightly by others, and if you wrong them, settle up rightly with them — do the right thing by them. The stern warning is what may happen to you in a court of law if you don’t, but if you do what is right in the first place, it never gets to that point.

Jesus is always about loving your neighbor (all others) as yourself. That is “what is right.” So He is about treating them as you would treat yourself. You wouldn’t cheat yourself, you wouldn’t rob yourself, you wouldn’t say bad things about yourself, you wouldn’t commit adultery against yourself, you wouldn’t lie to yourself, and so on. What is right is that you shouldn’t do it to others. And if you do, then you must make amends to them and do it with a loving heart. If you don’t, then Jesus would rightly say to you, “You hypocrites!” Better to hear that now than “You are not welcome here” at the gates to Heaven.

Glory to God!

“You fools!”

In Luke 11:37-41, Jesus tells us to be as clean inside as we make ourselves outside.

After Jesus had spoken,
a Pharisee invited him to dine at his home.
He entered and reclined at table to eat.
The Pharisee was amazed to see
that he did not observe the prescribed washing before the meal.
The Lord said to him, “Oh you Pharisees!
Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish,
inside you are filled with plunder and evil.
You fools!
Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside?
But as to what is within, give alms,
and behold, everything will be clean for you.”

Jesus spent a lot of time admonishing the Pharisees for saying one thing and doing another. But He wasn’t speaking just to them. He was speaking to us, too.

There is a very simple message for us here. Some of us make a big show of being contrite and repentant, even righteous — self righteous. That’s our outward appearance. But Jesus knows that on the inside we are sinners. We say one thing on the outside but do another — our heart is in another place. In Jesus’s metaphor, we make a show of washing the outside of the cup but the inside of the cup remains unclean.

His prescription is to be clean on the inside, too. His metaphor is to clean the inside of the cup or, more concretely, to give alms. But what Jesus is really saying is to be a man or woman of love and give freely from yourself to others.

You fools! God knows what is in your heart. Love and all will be clean for you.

Glory to God!

“Gird your loins and light your lamps”

Be prepared, says Jesus in Luke 12:35-38.

Jesus said to his disciples: 
Gird your loins and light your lamps
and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding,
ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.
Blessed are those servants
whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.
Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself,
have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them.
And should he come in the second or third watch
and find them prepared in this way,
blessed are those servants.”

“Gird up you loins and light your lamps” means, “Be prepared.” It comes from the old days when men and women both wore tunics, whose hems hung low to the ground and got in the way of doing labor or doing battle. Girding meant securing the hem up around your waist with your belt (girdle) or pulling them up under and around you and tying them off like pants. Then you were prepared.

As Jesus tells His disciples, and us, we should be prepared. Prepared for our day of salvation before God. We never know when the master is returning, so always be prepared.

Some among us think there is plenty of time. After all, it’s already been over 2,000 years. But none of us knows the day or the time. It could come in an instant. Even Jesus doesn’t know the moment — only the Father knows.

And how do we prepare? We listen to Jesus’s words and follow His example. We open our hearts to God and to one another. We serve one another. Just as important, we do not judge one another and we do not condemn one another. Rather, we focus on our own shortcomings, praying to God for His strength and grace to do better.

Yes, it’s been over 2,000 years. But it could come any day. Gird your loins and light your lamps; be prepared. For Jesus is coming and you don’t want to be unprepared. The Kingdom of Heaven awaits you.

Glory to God!

 

“One’s life does not consist of possessions”

Possessions may bring us happiness in this life, but they can bring us no joy in the afterlife, as Jesus tells us in Luke 12:13-21.

Someone in the crowd said to Jesus,
“Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.”
He replied to him,
“Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?”
Then he said to the crowd,
“Take care to guard against all greed,
for though one may be rich,
one’s life does not consist of possessions.”

Then he told them a parable.
“There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest.
He asked himself, ‘What shall I do,
for I do not have space to store my harvest?’
And he said, ‘This is what I shall do:
I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones.
There I shall store all my grain and other goods
and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you,
you have so many good things stored up for many years,
rest, eat, drink, be merry!”‘
But God said to him,
‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you;
and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’
Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself
but is not rich in what matters to God.”

Into one’s life one comes without possessions, out of one’s life one goes without them. Whether you enter Heaven or Hell after your passing, there is not a thing you possess that you will bring with you. Your only comfort or remembrance will be your relationship with God or you only regret will be your lack of one.

Then why put attachments on the things of the earth? Why gather and hoard those things you do not need, those things of excess which benefit no one but you? God gives us what we need, as he does the birds of the air and the fish of the sea, yet you do not see them storing more than they can eat nor put on airs with fine attachments.

Jesus has said, where your treasure is there is where your heart is. God knows of what your heart seeks. Better it seeks His love and the love of your neighbors than all the gold of the world. For when you leave this earth, the “price” to enter the Kingdom of Heaven will be your love and nothing else. The price of life, then is not possessions: one’s life does not consist of possessions.

Glory to God!