What really matters in life

Fr. Federico P. Labaglay, OMI
sent by Fr. Al Carino, OMI
Reproduced with Permission

"It's time for you to go bed, honey," said the father to his four-year old daughter. But she didn't want to go yet. When he insisted, this time in a louder voice, her pleading eyes were filled with tears. Seeing him frown, she asked, "Daddy, do you love me?" The father answered in the affirmative. When she asked, "How much do you love me," her father extended his long arms as far open as possible and replied, "That much." He then asked her how much he loved him. She also opened her arms just as wide. They then hugged each other. Afterwards, the father explained that his love for her made him insist on doing what was best for her and if she loved him, too, she should obey him. She jumped to her father's embrace and he put her in bed. There was a big smile on her face before she fell asleep.

We might find this story contradicting the opening sentence of Jesus in today's gospel reading (Mt.10: 37-42): "Whoever loves father or mother,... son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." But really, God does not make us choose between Him and others since we have to love everyone. The choice is between the good God wants us to do and the evil others propose to us. We do not show love to a person if we go along with the evil he proposes. For our love for others must never be at the expense of God's teachings. And in loving others, part of our duty is to make them faithful to God.

The gospel also specifies some of our duties if we want to inherit God's Kingdom. One of these is to be of assistance to the needy: "Whoever gives even only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink ... amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward." This simple and easy gesture makes it possible for anyone to be Jesus' disciple and receive His reward. Not great learning, not sensational achievements, not heroic acts nor high positions. In fact, these often make us puffed up with pride, feel superior to others, thus making us think it is below our dignity to be associating with those with less in life, much less to help them.

No. For Jesus, what matters are the ordinary daily acts of caring for the little ones -- the weak in faith, the poor and the undeserving of our attention. True, by helping them, we may not get anything in return. Our selfish human nature revolts against this for this goes against our mind-set of "What is in it for me?" And accustomed as we are to asking more than we like to give, this can be a heavy cross to bear.

No wonder that Jesus tied up the Christian duty to care for the needy with another one: "Anyone who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me." When we are generous to those with means, we are really serving ourselves for we can expect something in return. But not so when we help the needy. It is just giving -- pure and simple. If we receive a "Thank you!" afterwards, fine. But we should not feel disappointed when we do not get appreciation for what we do. For when we do so, then we become no different than the Pharisees who give in order to be seen and appreciated. Which becomes their very reward. As one writer says: "There is no reason for not extending help, merely because the recipient is not sufficiently appreciative.... Christ doesn't tell us to help the nice people only."

There are many ways of helping others. It could be by giving material goods like food or clothing or even financial help. It could be lending a listening ear to one with a heavy problem. It could be just sitting beside the bed of someone sick and do little things for him. It could be giving someone a job or helping him get one. It could be bringing to the attention of management some recommendations which will improve the condition of fellow workers in the work place thereby increasing loyalty to the company and productivity. No matter, we should help the needy in our own unique way. For did not Jesus Himself give everything He has, including His own life for us, sinners though we are -- and therefore most undeserving--and became our Redeemer?

Finally, let us always remember that every good deed, as long as it is done with the proper motivation, i.e., not to win appreciation from others but to do what Jesus wants us to do, will not go unrewarded. For Jesus Himself said: "He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives Him who sent me." Is not this the only reward that matters?

Let us pray that we be given the grace to be always available to help a brother or sister in need. Finally, let us pray that when we help others our motivation always springs from our desire to follow what Jesus had already done -- to give even His life out of love for us. For to be worthy of Jesus, we must place no one and nothing above Him.