12 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 neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
When I was a kid I used to dream of the fame and glory that would come my way when I got older…how I would have adventures that give me excitement and a sense of accomplishment, all the while ensuring that my bank account never ran dry!
Even as I got older, I still had dreams of success, but they became a bit more realistic as I simply desired being able to find a career that I did not completely hate, and which allowed me to live somewhat comfortably…
Today however, all I can hope for is that I can pay enough of my bills so that I do not lose my house, and can keep the lights on. With these lowered expectations I can get to feeling down about not doing better in life, about working so hard for an education and a career but still not finding success, because I am broke and in a low-level job…
As I am an American the importance of being a success has been driven home to me again and again: from school, to the television shows, and movies I have seen, to the influence of others around me. Even my father, who was more about finding satisfying work than about gaining wealth, wanted to me to do well in life, to make something of myself; and it is natural for parents to want the best for their kids…but it is important to remember that the best does not always mean being financially successful.
In today’s Gospel reading Jesus reminds us that monetary wealth is not what truly gives us a rich life, but that it is our compassion that gives life value and importance…as he calls upon all of his followers to reach out to those in need with an invitation to the feast, a seat at God’s table and a place in the kingdom…offered to us because we are all God’s children!!
Sometimes I forget this for myself: that success is not all about money, or status, as there is so much more to be grateful for in life.
Recently I was reminded of this when I read an essay written by a friend of my niece’s; it was about her and her husband’s struggle with infertility. Although they had tried everything, they could not have a child of their own and were heart-broken as they wanted to know the joy of parenthood. Fortunately for this couple, the struggle helped them become closer with each other, whereas many couples in a similar situation find their relationship strained.
As I read this essay, I thought of how often I have complained about the challenges of being a single father, and how I have made by jokes about giving my daughter away, or whether she was ‘…too old to send back…” at the age of 15! When I read this couple’s pain over not having a child, I found myself feeling embarrassed for my complaints and bad jokes, and I was reminded of how blessed I am to be a single parent!
Being a single father has been the best and the hardest thing that I have ever done…and I am so grateful for my wonderful and challenging daughter. She is a good person, with a sweet personality, who has shown much compassion for other people and for animals, has a great sense of humor, and has shown to be very intelligent. She is also a talented and insightful writer, and has recently been able to admit that she needed help and has been able to turn her life around. Raising her has been rough at times, and has left me stressed and frustrated at times…I have made mistakes and have seconded guessed myself quite often…but overall, raising her has been an amazing blessing!
Raising my daughter has caused me to grow up a lot, but while the experience has matured me, it has also taught me how to lighten up and to learn how to have fun and be more child-like in my approach to the world, as my daughter has taught me how to play again, and has opened my mind to different types of music, comedians, new authors, and most importantly, to different points of view…as she is a deep thinker.
Reading that essay reminded me that not only have I done a lot for my daughter, but that she has also given a lot to me…and has made my life much richer than it would have been if I was not her father.
I may not ever find financial security as a success in business, as a minister, or as a writer …I may always have to struggle (and sometimes fail) to make ends meet…but I am by no means poor! As Jesus points out in today’s Gospel, real wealth is not counted in money, but in what really matters in life: love, faith, and compassion for each other; compassion as shared with our children…and with those who are struggling: with the poor and the poor in spirit…those who are going through their own pain, and who need to have hope in their lives…to be reminded that God’s grace surrounds us all, and that we are all invited to join in the banquet, all welcome in the Kingdom of God…and that this Kingdom begins right here, where we are!!
Let us Pray:
God, thank you for making a place at your table for us, and for inviting us to join you in your kingdom; help us to share this invitation with others in need, by showing them the same love and compassion you have shown to us. Help us not to compare our insides to other people’s outsides, and to see how you have blessed us in our lives through the gifts of our children, and our faith. Let us see that true wealth comes from following the example of Christ, by showing caring for our children and all for those around us who are in need.