4 November 2013. Monday of the Thirty First Week
Rom 11:29ff. Paul concludes his discussion about the interaction of Israel and the Church by recalling the mercy and the unsearchable ways of God.
Luke 14:12ff. In preparing a banquet invite beggars, the crippled, the lame and the blind. You will be repaid in the resurrection of the just.
First Reading: Romans 11:29-36
The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.
O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him, to receive a gift in return?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen.
Gospel: Luke 14:12-14
He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbours, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
Because God will reward us above what we deserve, we should not be too concerned about the exact measure of our merits. If God is generous it behooves us not to argue our rights. What if he gave us only what we deserve? In Romans Paul concludes his discussion about Israel and the Gentiles by stressing the disobedience of all which required that the divine mercy be shown to all, a powerful example of God’s inscrutable judgments and unsearchable ways.
What is it that God is communicating to us when we experience mercy? Paul draws on a number of favourite Old Testament texts to announce the mysterious depths of it: Isa 40:13; Ps 139:6, 17-18; Wis 9:13. He writes: How deep are the riches and the wisdom and the knowledge of God. How inscrutable his judgments, how unsearchable his ways. For “who has known the mind of the Lord?… Who has given him anything so as to deserve return?” From Ps 139 we learn that this mercy goes back to our conception. “You knit me together in my mother’s womb,” to every moment of one’s lifetime. “Your eyes have seen my actions; in your book they are written.” And from the teaching of Jesus, it is clear that our access to the mystery of God’s mercy is linked to our relationships with others: Blessed are they who show mercy; mercy shall be theirs (Matthew 5:7).
The gospel gives an example of what showing mercy can mean: When you have a reception, invite beggars and the crippled, the lame and the blind. If our memory is good, we will recall moments when God invited us in our own crippled, beggarly state to a banquet of joy – the joy of forgiveness, the joy of new life. We may recall times of depression when we were blind to hope, paralyzed to joy and crippled, without energy to go forward. Yet God gently laid his hand on our feeble eyes and legs; and we found our hopes revived, our strength restored.
If Jesus assures us that we will be repaid “in the resurrection of the just,” we can affirm that promise from our own experiences. We have already felt the power of the resurrection within ourselves. Therefore it is wiser to perform acts of mercy not so that others can repay us, but rather to do so freely, for the reward promised by God. His recompense to us may be locked in mystery, but it is as certain as the words of Jesus, and will give us a foretaste of the resurrection even now as we go through life.