HOW A CHRISTIAN SHOULD LIVE
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Sunday, 22nd Sunday of the Year, August 28, 2016
Sirach 3:19-21, 30-31, Psalm 67, Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24, Luke 14:1, 7-14
Scripture quotations are from the RSV unless otherwise noted.
"When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your kinsman or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just" (Luke 14:12-14).
In this parable Jesus gives us a lesson in genuine generosity. Most people who give dinner parties expect to be invited in turn to a whole series of free dinner parties by each of the guests that they invited to their own party. So if you invite ten guests and pay for their dinner, you can expect to be invited to attend ten free dinner parties, and so you are fully repaid for all you spent, plus you get to go to ten more parties that cost you nothing. You get on the dinner party circuit.
So you become a fine diner, a partygoer, and your life is filled with entertainments, rich food, and worldly diversion. This helps you to become a worldly person, casting behind you all ideals of simple living and evangelical poverty for the love of God. Long forgotten and abandoned is the ideal of seeking all your delight in the Lord, rather than in worldly pleasures and entertainments.
Engaging in such a round of dinner-party entertainments hardly fits with serving only one master, not both God and mammon (Matthew 6:24). This rather is trying to serve two masters, both the Lord and worldly entertainments. This is not losing your life in order to save it with God, but rather trying to save your life in a worldly way, only to lose it with God (Mark 8:35). This is not hating your life in this world (John 12:25), that is, hating to live a worldly life. It is just the opposite. It is loving your life in this world, loving to live a worldly life. "He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life" (John 12:25).
This is not self-denial, but rather self-indulgence. "Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me'" (Matthew 16:24 NKJV). This is not, "Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God" (Luke 6:20). Rather it is, "Woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation" (Luke 6:24). This is not selling all to obtain possession of the buried treasure, which is the kingdom (Matthew 13:44), nor is it the narrow way of life that few find. It is more like the wide and easy way of the many that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14). This is not the way of renunciation and discipleship that Jesus preaches, when he said, "So therefore, whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:33).
This sounds more like the way of the rich man who lives a life of worldly pleasures, about whom Jesus said, "Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" (Matthew 19:23-24). This sounds more like the type of life that Jesus warned us about, when he said, "Take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a snare; for it will come upon all who dwell upon the face of the whole earth" (Luke 21:34-35).
So what should we do? How should we live? Jesus tells us today what we should do. "When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your kinsmen or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just" (Luke 14:12-14).
This is something that we may not be in a position to literally imitate if we live in a religious community. But we can do something analogous, helping people in other ways who can't repay us, for example, financially, or ministerially by writing sermons for them.
We can in this way serve "the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind" (Luke 14:13) for the love of God. They cannot repay us, but God will repay us at the resurrection of the just. We will be blessed precisely because they cannot repay us. "But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just" (Luke 14:13-14).
This is what a Christian should be engaged in, rather than being on a worldly dinner party circuit.
Why should we do this? What is our motive for acting in this new way? Our motive is that as Christians we have been blessed with salvation by our faith in Jesus Christ. Our sins have been forgiven, and God has declared us righteous and just, through our faith in Christ, because of his reparation-making death on the cross for our sins. Our whole way of life should therefore now be different. As God has been generous to us in Christ, we are now to live in a new way. The new way is to be generous to others who cannot repay us.
St. John puts our motive to live in this new way quite succinctly when he says, "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us" (1 John 4:10-12 NKJV).
Since Christ has been sent by the Father as the propitiation for our sins, we should love one another. We should generously minister to those in need, to those who cannot repay us. We cannot ourselves justify anyone as Jesus does to us, but we can share and preach to them the good news of Christ's justifying, propitiating sacrifice on the cross. Those who read or hear our sermons with repentance and faith will be justified and saved. That is, God will declare them righteous and just through their faith, because of Christ's reparation-making suffering and death on the cross for their sins.
So in this way we who have been saved by Christ can now participate in his mission to the world, saving many through the gospel we preach. "So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ" (Romans 10:17). Our preaching Christ will help people to have faith and be forgiven, justified, and saved.
St. John also says, "He laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But if any one has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth" (John 3:16-18).
Here again the motive for ministering to and helping those who cannot repay us is because of what Christ has done for us. "He laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren" (John 3:16). If we live this way, Jesus tells us, "You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just" (Luke 14:14).
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