29th Sunday in Ordinary Time - What's in it for me?

Whenever we are faced with having to make adult choices, it is very difficult for us to be totally selfless.   We are innately self centered. Subconsciously, at least, we are always asking: "What's in it for me?"

Religious decisions are no exception.   If we deliberately choose to become disciples of Jesus, we, too, like James and John, might ask: "What reward do you promise? Will we become powerful and famous? "

Jesus doesn't play those kinds of games.   He makes it very clear that, if we choose to follow Him, we are asking to become suffering servants, I like Him.    We will be expected to make ourselves vulnerable and expendable. The only greatness we can expect is to be asked to make great sacrifices, to become heroes through suffering and humiliation.

Why, then, do millions of people continue to choose deliberately to become disciples of Jesus?  Obviously, this discipleship must offer its own rewards   not in terms of power and possessions, but in terms of great inner peace, of fulfillment, and of the great satisfaction that comes from loving and serving unselfishly .

Persons, who, like Jesus, are willing to die to self for the love of God and neighbor, are rewarded with an incomparable sense of joy and well being.   They are freed up from grasping, greed, insecurity, disappointment and despair. They truly find fulfillment: in serving others rather than in being served.   They are content to be considered the least.   They measure their importance in terms of their compassion and sensitivity.

All of this may seem very theoretical, just a lot of words. But we are all challenged by the demands of the Gospel in the real world of our daily lives.   We are expected to be just, to be forgiving, to be servants, to be poor in spirit, to be merciful   and, with each decision, we might well ask: "What's in it for me?" 

Obviously the answer can only come from the depths of our love for Jesus, and from the example of His own life, death and resurrection.  It is coming around full-circle in our understanding of His words: "whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all."
 
The mission of Jesus surrounds all of us.  It is a call to follow in the footsteps of the Lord and of his first disciples.  This Sunday, October 19th, the Holy Father will officially proclaim Mother Teresa of Calcutta as a "Blessed of God" - and I think it is quite interesting that the Gospel points to this particular passage on a day that celebrates one who devoted sixty-five years of her life serving the poor, the homeless and the destitute of this earth - a person who never once asked "What's in it for me?"

Mother Teresa spent her entire life taking care of those she lovingly called "the poorest of the poor."  She said she saw Christ in the faces of the poor, the outcast, the maimed and the dying. She felt they all deserved what she called "the delicate love of God."

Wherever she went, her message was the same: Love the poor. "I think it is really important that we all realize they are our brothers and sisters", she once said, "and we owe that love and care and concern to one another."

"We can do no great things; only small things with great love."   This was her driving force - her way of looking at life and dealing with its harsh realities.  With the gentle touch of her hand, with the compassion of her immensely loving heart, and with the courage of a warrior in battle, she not only worked for the poorest of the poor, but she immersed herself in their lives and lived their life to the fullest.

Very few of us are able to dedicate ourselves so totally to others, as Mother Teresa did throughout her life.  But if most of us honor her life's work by giving just a little more of ourselves to our brothers and sister, then the healing will be easier and the world will be better for it.

The Lord is not necessarily calling us to such drastic measures to preach the Gospel.  But He is calling us to get our priorities straight; He is asking us to speak out and to do something real and concrete about injustice and human dignity; and He is challenging us to sacrifice our complacency and comfortable-ness for the sake of our fellow pilgrims, at home as well as abroad. 

If we can do just this, then we will find that the answer to "What's in it for me?" is far beyond what we could have ever hoped for.