December 10, 2023
I would suspect that if we were asked to describe what a Pharisee was, we would not be terribly accurate. Because more than likely, we've gotten a little bit of an notion here or a little bit of an idea there, but we really probably don't know a whole heck of a lot about the Pharisees.

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Charity: What’s in it for me?

What’s in it for me? We hear that sometimes when someone may ask for a favor. Well, yeah, I’ll do that, but what’s in it for me? Why should I do that? What am I going to get out of it?

It’s hard sometimes, even under the surface, not to think that way. I remember a woman who came to the parish asking for some assistance, and that’s a rather interesting thing, because I learned early on that you had to weigh carefully what you were being told, lest you help someone who didn’t really need help. I didn’t realize that this was a cottage industry asking for help.

So I had to think and get to know the people that came to the door. And there was one woman who was seeking assistance. She had a little baby, and she was seeking assistance for diapers. So I called the local supermarket, and I said there’s going to be a woman coming in. I forget what her name is. That doesn’t matter. And she’s going to want to purchase diapers, and I’d ask you, please, just to give us a receipt, and we’ll take care of them.

Now, what was interesting is that she said, I’ll pay you back at the end of the month, or the beginning of next month, when her support check would come in. Now, I’m here to tell you that everybody says they’re going to do that, but that rarely happens.

But this woman, faithfully, shortly after the beginning of every month, gave me money for the diapers that she had purchased. I remember saying to her how much that really uplifted me, how much that really helped me to see the goodness of God because of her desire to be accountable and to pay back what she owed.

I think Jesus is getting at some of that for us in today’s Gospel. I mentioned yesterday at Mass that there is a lot of scholarship to suggest that Jesus might himself have been a Pharisee, and we see him hanging out a lot with the Pharisees, which might also be indicative of what he was.

But he’s at the house. It’s a leading Pharisee, and you can only imagine, as we’ve seen in other instances, all of the movers and shakers of town have been invited. Those who are wealthy, those who can invite in their own right, those who really are influential in their own spheres of influence.

I don’t think Jesus is being ungrateful for the invitation. I think he’s reminding those who hear him of the importance to really recognize his presence in others. Imagine how different the dinner might have been if the people Jesus suggested would be invited were, in fact, invited.

Imagine how different perhaps our parish community could be if, in fact, we went to the nearest homeless shelter and said, come on, join us for Mass. We’d love to have you here. Imagine how different our lives could be if, rather than feeling imposed upon, we could, in fact, see that every person offers us the invitation either to act like Jesus or not.

I am working on a short entry explaining a little bit about the Pharisees. The link will be available here when the entry is completed.

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