by Frank Lesko, Coordinator of Justice and Peace
“You get more out of it than you give.”
This is one of the most common expressions we hear from ministry leaders and volunteers when they reflect on their outreach work. People even laugh when they say it, because they know it has become cliché—but that is only because it is so consistently true.
We hear this echoed whether folks are delivering brown bag lunches to low-income seniors in Durham, transporting migrant workers to Mass on Sundays at Our Lady of the Rosary parish or spending a week serving the hungry and homeless in Philadelphia at St. Francis Inn, just to name a few active ministries at this parish.
The readings this week beckon us to look for wisdom in places where society is least likely to look. David was the unlikely heir to the throne. In his day, the firstborn symbolized a family’s inheritance. Having seven older brothers, David was the furthest removed. David was even left to care for the sheep while his older brothers were invited to an assembly gathered to select the new king. No one thought that David had any chance at all, yet he was the one selected. Society invested more in the eldest; God gave the kingdom to the youngest.
The man born blind in today’s Gospel was a beggar and poorly regarded by society. It was thought that physical illness was a sign of God’s disfavor, so people were wary of him. Yet, he was able to see Jesus as the Son of Man most clearly. The religious establishment of the day could not acknowledge that, since Jesus did not come by the parameters their tradition had laid out, despite evidence that something amazing and miraculous had happened. The man born blind was thrown out for attempting to “teach” the teachers.
God’s Kingdom works differently than our earthly ones. Scripture and Tradition consistently attest that it is the poor, the eclipsed, the throw-away people who see Jesus first and who lead us to God. As Paul reminds, “try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” In light of the other readings today, Paul seems to suggest that what is pleasing to the Lord is not always what pleases society, so it will take some effort on our part to discover this. We must take the time to look closely and not judge from appearance, as the Lord told Samuel in the first reading.
It is not at all surprising that when we attempt to live out our baptismal call to ministry, that the tables are turned and we find ourselves just as much the receivers as the givers.