A story is told about the third-century martyr Saint Lawrence that, after the death of Pope Sixtus II, the prefect of Rome demanded that Lawrence, who was the keeper of the material goods of the Church, turn over to him all of the Church’s treasures. In response, Saint Lawrence brought out the poor, the blind and the lame, to whom he had distributed alms, saying, “Behold in these poor persons the treasures which I promised to show you; to which I will add pearls and precious stones, those widows and consecrated virgins, which are the Church’s crown.” That act cost Lawrence his life, but it also testified to the real truth of where our treasure is found.
In today’s Gospel, our Lord instructs those dining at the home of one of the leading Pharisees to do much the same. Rather than inviting those who would give you a boost in social status or cause you to have the opportunity for repayment, instead they should “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind,” expecting blessing because of their inability to repay the favor.
As we near the end of our liturgical year, the Church gives us this reading to help us to reflect on our discipleship over the last year. What has been our response to the Gospel? Have we sought our own honor and glory, or have we instead turned to have compassion on others? Have we treated people as stepping stones to something better, or have we humbled ourselves?
Friends, Jesus makes it clear that we cannot receive the blessing God wants to give us if we aren’t humble enough to let go of social status and wealth and the high estimation of others. We cannot receive blessing when we are grasping for things that look better. So if toward the end of this year, we have not grown in blessing, maybe it’s time we took stock of what we need to get rid of. Empty hands can receive blessing.