Doing something for others … creates more blessings for us than them
This Gospel always creates some confusion in the minds of many people. However, there are some general ideas that can help us understand it in a positive way:
- Preferring God before our parents does not diminish our love for our parents, it simply ensures – with God’s guidance first – that we know how to love our parents in the best way for any given situation they are in – and vice versa;
It’s like preferring the fuel tank on our car ahead of our holiday destination: if we ignore the fuel tank, we won’t reach our destination;
There are many stories of parents who have despaired of their children: some abandon them, or have a breakdown. However, if we can give God a prominent place in our daily lives, we can find the strength, the wisdom and courage to persevere: to know how to love them best.
I regularly wake up wondering how I will cope with everything ahead of me for the next few days: there is a temptation to skip prayer and get some work done instead. On the occasions I do, I usually feel overloaded. But after prayer and Mass I almost always feel greater confidence that I can cope with everything on my plate.
- Taking up our Cross and following Jesus is something all believers and unbelievers have to face if we want to have a fulfilling and happy life.
It starts with letting go of mum’s hand as we enter into school. It continues with asking a partner out on a date and risk being rejected. Later we need to commit ourselves to something for a significant other(s): marriage partner, religious life, service to the Community, army, etc.
- Finally, the last part of the Gospel discusses the importance of kindness and service to others who have need. Sometimes we can feel this as a burden.
However, as we care for others, we create a community that can support and protect us in the future. We create a community that appreciates us, and lives in peace which provides us with security for safety and economic needs (our house, our job, etc.).
I believe, when we unpack the Gospel using the above understanding, it makes sense: we begin life totally dependent on others, and then slowly progress to the point where we can be independent, and have to make a choice:
- Be selfish and serve only my own interests and my friends?
- Or to give our lives away for the good of others, and discover a deeper joy and peace?
Our Oblate youth highlighted the fact that Jesus gave specific instructions to the Disciples as a way of encouraging them, and so they wouldn’t deviate from their main task of revealing God’s love for all people.
“Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.”
One shared the story of his mother: she was always tired working hard all day for low pay, but she always prepared sweet potatoes for him when he came home from high school whether at 6pm or midnight!
The youth also observed how I left Australia and my mining career – many colleagues thought I had gone crazy. In a way, I lost my life, but found it in a new way: a more life-giving way. I miss many parts of my former career, but my new life has more rewards.
On a cheeky note, God highlights the role of a woman, not a man, to demonstrate God’s wisdom on how to build a better future for ourselves. It also highlights the compassionate mothering side of God’s character, that even men need to develop in order to find true joy.
Furthermore, we are told the woman was wealthy (of senior rank), and this is impressive because she did not allow her wealth/ status to stop her seeing the needs of other people.
How about ourselves? Are we so pre-occupied with our own children or parents (or property), that we fail to notice other, needy, brothers and sisters? Here there’s also a lesson for Church leaders, especially priests: we must give back to people more than just a word of thanks.
Finally, to all of us: be generous and don’t worry if you don’t see any reward from people we help: God always sees and always blesses us: maybe tomorrow or 10 years later.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI