Commentary on the Gospel of
Two things struck me about today’s readings. Both are connected to “cost”. Jesus says in Matthew’s gospel: “without cost you have received and without cost you are to give.”
How often do we take time to think about what we have received? I don’t know if it is our consumer society or if it is human nature that makes it so hard to see the goodness we have been given in our lives.
Why is it so much easier to see what we don’t have in our lives? My 20th high school reunion drove this point home to me. Over 500 students graduated with me. During our reunion several people asked me why I has hanging out with them instead of the popular kids. Really, me, a popular kid? I would have had a much better time in high school if I had realized that! But at that time, I could only see what I didn’t have. Feeling like I was usually on the losing end of some arbitrary scale, I completely missed being a ‘popular’ kid. Which got me thinking about how many other things have I failed to recognize. How many times have I felt small or unworthy by comparing myself to others or to our culture’s standard of success? And in wasting time and energy being preoccupied with my inability to measure up, how many opportunities to “give without cost” have I been oblivious to?
This is where the second idea that struck me connects. Joseph. Joseph was so hated by his brothers that they sold him into slavery. How did Joseph recover from that seismic betrayal to become the person who saved an entire region from starvation? Did he see what he had instead of focusing on what he didn’t have? Was he so grateful to be alive that he could begin to forgive his brothers? His gratitude and ability to forgive his brothers must have led him to become a person who “gives without cost.”
If only Joseph would have left a journal that documented his journey from slavery to becoming the right-hand man of Pharaoh! That journal would have given us a road map of how we could overcome our inability to see what we have received and move towards giving without cost. And not only that, but Joseph begged his brothers “not to be distressed and not reproach yourselves”. WOW. He must have known how distress and reproaching yourself prevents you from seeing how you can use your gifts to build the kingdom of God.
For me, Joseph embodies what Jesus was talking about in today’s gospel. Since he didn’t leave a journal, we will just have to figure out our own path as we journey towards the ability to give compassionately and without counting the cost.