Love inspires generosity
Many of us may have heard a phrase and been captivated by it even though we didn’t fully understand what it meant. Indeed, in our recent past, it was quite common to hear local sayings attributed to the “old people” such as, “What eh meet yuh eh pass yuh” and “All skin teeth eh laugh”. These local proverbs are attention grabbing and easy to remember, that’s true! However, it is also true that we seldom appreciate the full meaning of what the old people wished to convey, until the experience of life rendered such sayings relevant.
That has been my experience since 2013 when I heard the phrase, “It is easier to believe in Jesus than to believe Jesus”. Much like our “old folks” sayings this dynamic phrase stayed with me. It has also provoked continuous reflection which has caused me to better appreciate its meaning: partly due to my lived experiences and otherwise, through my reflection on the experiences of others.
These experiences generally relate to the economic, social and political difficulties faced by citizens in neighbouring countries along with the contemporary reality of life in Trinidad and Tobago. The recent devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria to islands in the northern Caribbean, and the influx of foreigners seeking sanctuary in our country have also brought me closer to a more complete understanding of this phrase.
The phrase speaks to our belief as Christians and our relationship with Jesus. It makes a distinction between the act of belief, namely, believing that Jesus is Lord and God, and the effect of that belief in our lives as reflected in our relationships with Him and His people.
Most of us have no difficulty in proclaiming our faith. It is easy for us to declare, “I believe!” We do this often when we recite the Apostles Creed at Mass. however, it can be a bit more challenging to take Jesus at His word, to believe His words, to internalise them, to make them part of our being, to allow them to transform us, and to live in accordance with them so that our life reflects our faith in Him (Jas 2:18).
Understandably then, it can be difficult to “listen to … [God’s] words and act on them” (Lk 6:47). This is easily seen in today’s Gospel passage where the first workers hired by the landowner had difficulty in accepting his act of generosity towards “the men who came last” (Mt 20:12).
Perhaps, a fitting restatement of these workers’ question to the landowner would be, “How come they get the same amount as we?” or maybe, “We barely get but you looking to give them?” These restatements better contextualise and give greater practical effect to the attitude of the workers first hired. They call us to reflect on our own attitudes in light of what the Gospel is saying to us.
The Gospel reveals a general lack of love and caring for the other, a spirit of selfishness, and ultimately highlights our difficulty to believe Jesus. If indeed we do believe Him, then, I should be convinced of His love for me and you should be equally convinced of His love for you. Even more, we should also be convinced that God loves every person equally.
accordingly, He offers each of us the same “wage” – His entire self: body, blood, soul and divinity. To understand this is to see the face of Jesus in every person. It is to appreciate that our generosity must stem from love because when we love others as Jesus loves us (Jn 13:34), we demonstrate that we believe Him.
We must therefore seek to cut out from ourselves feelings of injustice, envy and lack of generosity at the prospect of sharing a reward with others. Instead we must seek God’s grace to go out, as the landowner did, to encounter those in need.
Many are they at this time. They include those persons left homeless, jobless and grieving the loss of loved ones in Barbuda, Sint Maarten, Tortola and elsewhere in the region; the many Venezuelans, Cubans and others seeking asylum in Trinidad and Tobago due to conditions in their countries; and also, the many persons in our country now unemployed and facing economic difficulties. To believe Jesus is to love, pray for and assist them in any want that we can.
We cannot truly say that we believe Jesus if we ignore their needs or when we suggest that our government should not lend financial or other assistance to these countries because, “we barely have”.
as we proclaim our belief in Christ at Mass this week let us consider the effect of that belief in our life and in the lives of those in need.
The Gospel reflections for September are by four local seminarians.