First Reading: 2Kgs 4:8-11. 14-16a; Psalm: 98. R. v. 2a; Second Reading: Rm 6:3-4. 8-11; Gospel: Mt 10:37-42
RETHINKING OUR COMMITMENT TO SELFLESS GENEROSITY
BY FR VALENTINE NNAMDI EGBUONU, MSP
“He who receives a prophet because he is a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward, and he who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.” (Mt 10:41-42).
The above passage from the gospel of today presents a problem. Reflecting on it Jesus seemed to be telling us that our generosity and hospitality should be purpose-driven for we shall be rewarded accordingly based on whom we receive and who we give to.
Now, is Jesus saying that our kindness should be conditional? Should we be kind to a prophet just because he is a prophet, to a righteous man just because he is a righteous man and to a disciple just because he is a Christian or should we be kind generally to people as their needs arise? Are there people who are less deserving of our kindness because we believe that kindness to them is less rewarding than kindness to certain groups of people? Jesus obviously was not implying this because to all those truly in need, none is less deserving of our kindness. To receive them is to welcome God into our lives. Perhaps, Jesus is calling us today to be sensitive and generous to those truly in need.
Recall that in the previous verses of today’s gospel of Matthew chapter ten, as Jesus was sending out the twelve, he charged them saying; “Take no gold, nor silver, nor copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor a staff; for the labourer deserves his food.” (Mt 10:9-10). The twelve were sent out in this condition. They would therefore depend on the generosity of people for their sustenance. So whoever was kind to any of them would be supporting their ministry and would be rewarded accordingly. Jesus therefore wanted us to pay attention to their needs. So how open and sensitive are we to the needs of the Church and the needs of those around us?
In the first reading of today, we see the openness and sensitivity of the wealthy woman of Shunem. She invited Elisha for a meal when Elisha was at Shunem. But then she noticed that Elisha kept passing by her house occasionally. She then said to her husband; “‘Behold now, I perceive that this is a holy man of God, who is continually passing our way.”’ She did not only discover that Elisha was a prophet, but primarily she was also sensitive to the peripatetic nature of the ministry of a prophet. For a prophet by the virtue of his ministry has no home. So she pleaded with her husband that they make a room ready for the prophet.
Now, this woman did not do this because she needed any reward from the prophet Elisha. For when Elisha asked her to name her wish having seen her extra effort, she made no request but only replied that she was fine living amongst her own people (2Kgs 4:13). This re-echoes what Jesus is saying to us in the gospel reading of today. Jesus was not exclusively asking us to be kind to a prophet, a righteous man or a disciple because we shall be rewarded accordingly but that we should be sensitive to people’s needs and be kind for kindness sake. Whatever favour we receive from God for our kindness thereafter is a blessing and not a repayment. The Shunammite woman was blessed with a son for her kindness when she least expected it.
Life is not so comfortable that we cannot look around and not see those in need of help. The Church is not so rich that we cannot observe and see her immediate pressing needs. So to those of us who can afford to help, we should not hesitate in doing so. Perhaps you are telling yourself right now that you cannot afford to help. But we can afford to help if we had a roof under our head and could feed ourselves. We can afford to help if we are working or running a business and earning some salary or income. We can afford to help if we could fuel our cars, pay our bills, go shopping and afford a vacation. In fact, whoever is helped could also afford to help.
Like the Shunammite woman we can be sensitive enough to look within and around our Church and community to see what needs to be done to make our Church and worship better. We need to imbibe that spirit of sensitivity to be foresighted and be ahead in making suggestions and decisions even before time demands it or before we are compelled to do so. And it does not suffice to make suggestions and decisions. We need to also put our resources together to implement them. There are needs in the Church both immediate and future that if considered would make the work of the gospel better. We can make them happen.
We also need to be sensitive to the needs of one another. We can even begin from our homes. Parents need not be told of the needs of their family. Young working men and ladies need not be reminded of their responsibility of caring for their aging parents. Our parents still deserve our love and generosity even if we felt they were reckless and extravagant with what we gave them. Nothing should ever make us think they are less deserving of our love. Even if in retrospect we felt they failed in their parental duties, it is unforgivable to repay or punish them in their old age.
Our generosity and love should also be extended to our neighbours and all those outside our family circle. A generosity as small as a cup of cold water could go a long way to alleviate the suffering of a neighbour. Our cup of cold water to a neighbour could be respect, kind words, sincere concern, love, and even praying God to give that neighbour a better life. Life is not all about material giving. There are people who need less of that.
St Paul urged us in the second reading of today to walk in newness of life having been buried with Christ. This newness of life is what Jesus calls us to practice today through kindness and generosity. This act of love enriches us with divine blessings. However, let every good we do not be motivated by the desire for immediate reward. In this way our kindness would be pure and selfless; and our sacrifices acceptable to God.
PRAYER FOR THE DAY
Lord Jesus Christ, may our love for you and for one another bear the fruits of kindness and generosity. Amen.