SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Rom 11:29-36
; Ps 69
; Lk 14:12-14
When we look at the world, the great disparity between the rich and the poor, we wonder whether the justice of God is fair. The rich have plenty to squander their wealth away in luxurious and extravagant living. The poor do not have a single proper meal a day. Then there are those who are borne physically disadvantaged. Why does God allow such babies to come into the world to suffer? Then there are those who are born into to influential families. They have the best connections to get ahead in life, whereas there are others who have no connections nor status and have to work doubly hard to compete for opportunities in life. Indeed, there is so much injustice in the world and in society.
On the personal level, some of us also feel cheated and short-changed. We do not have the finance, unlike others, to go for further studies. Some of us feel inferior to others in terms of physical beauty and intelligence. Why are some so talented and smart whereas we are not. We are born into a poor family, or sometimes dysfunctional family. Others seem to have a better time than us because they have a loving, caring and supportive family. Then there are those who are sickly, suffering from all kinds of illnesses, young or old and thus live restricted lives. Others on the contrary, can eat whatever they like and yet live to a ripe old age.
When we look at life from this perspective, we can become envious of others who have more than us. Whenever we see others doing better than us, we wish we were them. We cannot rejoice in their success. Deep in our hearts, we wish they would fail. Envy can eat into us and rob us of our joy and peace. Envy could lead to resentment as well. We become angry with our parents for not providing us what others have. Of course, in our hearts, we also resent God for creating us to be who we are and not what we wish to be. We feel that God is not fair and is unjust to us. The conclusion is that God only loves some people. He does not love me because He does not care for me.
If we are feeling that way, we are looking at life from a wrong angle. Such an outlook of God’s love and justice is not what the scripture presents to us. St Paul tells us that God loves us all, Jews and Gentiles alike. He “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all.” (1 Tim 2:4-6a) Most of all, “God never takes back his gifts or revokes his choice.” Truly, God is the faithful one. “If we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Tim 2b-13)
Then how do we explain the disparity in the world? In God’s wondrous plan, He wants us all to live as a family, caring for each other. No one is better or greater than the other in His eyes. We are all given blessings and gifts which are meant for each other. We do not receive all these blessings for ourselves but always for the greater good of the community. This was what Paul wrote to the Corinthians about giving. “And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work. As it is written, ‘He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures for ever.’ He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your resources and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for great generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. Under the test of this service, you will glorify God by your obedience in acknowledging the gospel of Christ, and by the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others; while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God in you. Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” (2 Cor 9:8-15)
It is for the same reason that Jesus told us that “when you give a lunch or a dinner, do not ask your friends, brothers, relations or rich neighbours, for fear they repay your courtesy by inviting you in return.” What is the rationale behind this exhortation? When we invite those who are in the same playing field as us, we do it for ourselves, to enrich ourselves. That is why people like to meet those who are influential because they can get something out of them. Hence, in a party, normally those who are invited are of the same class. They are there to enrich each other. It is not a real invitation from the heart and not an act of generosity. Both parties gain from each other.
However, when we “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; that they cannot pay you back means that you are fortunate, because repayment will be made to you when the virtuous rise again.” When we invite those who are poorer, then the exchange is quite different. The poor cannot give us what we give to them. But as St Paul said, they can bless us with other intangible blessings, such as love, gratitude, joy, peace, fulfillment and prayers. Most of all, in turn when they “rise again”, that is, when they become rich and independent, they will in turn remember to bless others with what they now have, remembering that they were once poor. So regardless of whether we are rich or poor, we can help each other to find real happiness in life. The poor, the weak and the suffering exist for the rich to help; and they in turn supply the rich with a greater capacity to love and find joy and meaning.
It is within this context that we can better appreciate what St Paul spoke about with regard to the salvation of the Jews. “Just as you changed from being disobedient to God, and now enjoy mercy because of their disobedience, so those who are disobedient now – and only because of the mercy shown to you – will also enjoy mercy eventually. God has imprisoned all men in their own disobedience only to show mercy to all mankind.” In other words, the Jews where the Chosen People of God. They were blessed by God not for themselves only but that they might be the nation that will lead all other nations to God. But they did not assume their role to be God’s instrument of salvation to the world. Yet, God’s plan would not be derailed because of the obstinacy of man. He made use of the Jews’ rejection of the gospel to bring about the conversion of the Gentiles. Now that the Gentiles are converted to the Lord and the gospel is spread all over the world, the Gentile Christians will be responsible in revealing to the Jews the Messiah that they have been waiting for.
In truth, regardless who received the Good News first, it does not matter. God will make use of us, the good or evil we do, for the good of everyone. God writes straight in crooked line. “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28) What is a sin for one, God will use that sin for the good of others. No one can defeat the inexorable plan of God for humanity. Hence, St Paul after contemplating on the wisdom of God in carrying His plan of salvation for all of humanity said, “How rich are the depths of God – how deep his wisdom and knowledge – and how impossible to penetrate his motives or understand his methods! Who could ever know the mind of the Lord? Who could ever be his counsellor? Who could ever give him anything or lend him anything? All that exists comes from him; all is by him and for him. To him be glory forever! Amen.” God’s wisdom is beyond the imagination of man.
He will eventually save us all beyond our thinking. This is what the Church hopes, “All this holds true not only for Christians, but for all men of good will in whose hearts grace works in an unseen way. For, since Christ died for all men, and since the ultimate vocation of man is in fact one, and divine, we ought to believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery. Such is the mystery of man, and it is a great one, as seen by believers in the light of Christian revelation. Through Christ and in Christ, the riddles of sorrow and death grow meaningful. Apart from His Gospel, they overwhelm us. Christ has risen, destroying death by His death; He has lavished life upon us so that, as sons in the Son, we can cry out in the Spirit; Abba, Father. (GS No. 22) Such then is the wisdom of God’s plan. His plan will succeed regardless of our response.