“[W]hen 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” (Lk 14:13-14).
Jesus means what he says here, though I am not sure many of us are ready to live this Gospel out. If we are going to get to the point where we can, we must understand the deeper point that he is making. The words of Jesus above give us an example of what it means to love unconditionally. We are to resist the temptation of doing anything with the primary reason of receiving thanks or praise. We are to instead reach out to those in need because they are in need. We embrace our dignity as human beings when we recognize the inherent dignity of another and serve them without hesitation, without holding anything back.
This is the root of what we mean when we say that we are believers in the God of Jesus Christ. God is a divine community of persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Father gives all that he is to the Son perfectly, infinitely, holding nothing back. The Son receives all that he has been given perfectly, infinitely and returns, in like fashion, what he has received to the Father. The infinite Love shared between the Father and the Son is the Holy Spirit.
Through the Son of God becoming incarnate, becoming one with us in our humanity and returning to the Father at his Ascension, we now participate in that same divine love given and received between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We do not give of our time, our talent, and our treasure, because we will be given in return – more time, more talent, more treasure. We give, we love because we have already been loved into existence and are continually loved more than we can ever imagine by our God. We are to receive his love and love in return because that is who he created us to be.
The very fact that we exist, that we have life, is a gift, yet we are not meant to merely exist. Jesus teaches us that the height of our humanity is to allow him to love us and through us, love others unconditionally. When we look into the eye of each and every person we meet, we are to see a brother, sister, mother, father. With each smile, each embrace, each listening ear, each act of invitation to walk not ahead, not behind, but with another, and by simply being present, we reaffirm to each other that we have dignity. This is true because each and every one of us has been created in the image and likeness of God, who is Love.
Photo: Sacred Heart of Jesus on the grounds of Our Lady of Florida Spiritual Center