When we hear the word “cost,” we normally think of the transfer of money. I get something and I pay you or vice versa. If we’re not careful, the Gospel this weekend can be understood in that same monetary exchange; that would be a terrible mistake. We are asked to give without cost because we have been given without cost. We find that difficult to understand and accept because most of us work hard to provide for our communities and families. We have a sense of ownership for what comes through hard labor. Jesus asks us to take on a completely different understanding of possessions, money and any other blessing that we have in our lives. Through God’s generosity, we have been given all the gifts that we have and the opportunities to use them. With that understanding, we believe that God will provide for us as He always has. That gives us the freedom to give without cost because God has always given us everything that we need.
Our task during Ordinary Time is to live out the Good News of Jesus Christ in our daily lives. We have been renewed and encouraged through the living, dying and rising of Jesus. If we have been living a life of gratitude, our hearts have already acknowledged that God is the source of every blessing we have. If we are living a cynical and hopeless life, giving without cost is almost impossible. If you recognize yourself as cynical or hopeless, don’t be buried in shame or embarrassment, but begin to notice the daily blessings of your life.
Do you have fresh drinking water? Does it come from a tap inside your home or do you have to walk miles and miles to pump it from a well? Do you have safe food to eat? Do you have clothes to wear? Do you have shelter that keeps you from the heat of the summer and the cold of the winter? Do you have faith enough to believe that God is real and connected to you in your daily life? Have you been able to witness the sunrise and the sunset, the changing of seasons? If somehow you have fallen out of the habit of gratitude, make today the first day of a pattern that you’re going to set to notice the things in your life that you might take for granted. If each of us does that on a daily basis, we are able to more freely give the gifts that we’ve been given without cost to others. We are able to have a deeper trust in the fact that God provides everything that we need.
The Gospel calls us to go to the lost sheep — not to those with whom we are the most comfortable. Our attitude toward the lost sheep should be one of openness, generosity and hospitality. Jesus commands us to welcome them with open hearts and minds, and not with judgments, purity, codes or membership requirements. Jesus sent out the apostles to do His work in the world. We’re flawed human beings, as were they. Jesus embraced their weakness, loved them as they were and welcomed them into His community of love. Why do we find it so difficult to allow Jesus to welcome and love our own flaws and weaknesses, and in turn show that same love and welcome to others??
Wherever you find yourself this week, take this attitude of welcome and gratitude with you. Just because we’re on vacation, we don’t have the right to treat people who serve us as less than we are. Just because we’re away from our typical communities doesn’t give us the right to treat strangers as people disconnected from ourselves. Find a place to worship. Find a way to love. Find a way through your normal interactions to give people an experience of Jesus through your own words and actions. The greatest way to share the Good News of Jesus Christ is to be that Good News of Jesus Christ. The worst form of evangelization is to claim to be a Christian and then act in an opposite manner. Carry your faith and your gratitude with you wherever you go.
Father Donald Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.