How to Be Generous Even When Our Efforts Seem in Vain

In Conversation With God Weekly Reflection
31st Week of Ordinary Time: Without Waiting for a Reward

By Francis Fernandez-Carvajal

5/67.1 Being generous even when our efforts seem in vain.

Jesus had been invited to dine at the home of an important Pharisee.[6237] The Master makes use of the image of a banquet to underline our social responsibilities. On this occasion Jesus said to his host: 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. Jesus tells him who it is he should be inviting – the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind ... This is the criteria for the Lord’s guest list: That they cannot pay you back means that you are fortunate, because repayment will be made to you when the virtuous rise again.[6238]

We well know that friends, relatives and wealthy acquaintances will respond to our invitations with invitations of their own. The investment bears immediate fruit. This can, of course, be an upright way of behaving, especially when our goal is to build friendships, increase our apostolate, strengthen family bonds and so on ... Yet in and of itself this is a purely human mode of behaviour. The pagans act in a manner not markedly different. The Lord taught on another occasion: If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.[6239] Christian charity goes much further than mere human charity. The Christian gives for love of God without expecting anything in return. The poor and the infirm have nothing to pay you back with. This is the way to see Christ in others. The image of the banquet does not refer exclusively to material goods. It includes whatever one person can offer another: respect, joy, optimism, companionship, attention ...

The story is told that St Martin, before he was baptized a Christian, had a vision of Christ in his sleep. The Lord was wearing the cloak of a Roman official, a garment which Martin had recently given to a poor person. He recognized his old cloak and then heard Jesus saying to the angels round about him: Martin is only a catechumen, and see how he has given me his cloak. The saint also heard the Lord say: Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.[6240] This dream filled Martin with hope and peace. He was baptized soon thereafter.[6241]

We have to be generous without expecting any reward in return. We should give ourselves completely in the apostolate, in almsgiving, in works of mercy, without looking for compensation. Charity does not seek for repayment. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.[6242] We have to sow without yearning for immediate fruits. The Lord teaches us through this parable to give without measure, without any calculation of reward. Then we will receive in abundance.

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[6237] cf Luke 14:1

[6238] Luke 14:12-14

[6239] Luke 6:32

[6240] Matt 25:40

[6241] cf P. Croiset, The Christian Year, Madrid 1846, IV

[6242] 1 Cor 13:5


Francis Fernandez-Carvajal,

Rev. Francis Fernandez-Carvajal

Rev. Francis Fernández-Carvajal is a Priest of the Opus Dei Prelature and the author of many popular spiritual works. His seven-volume series In Conversation with God provides over 500 meditations to be used throughout the liturgical year. It has sold over 2 million copies and has been translated into many languages.