When at a hockey game with our sons, a fellow dad bought me a beer (for seven bucks!). When he handed it to me, I tried to insist on paying for it, as I honestly felt kind of guilty accepting it from him. But the other dad, for his part, was equally insistent that I accept it as a gift from a friend.
On later reflection, I realized that I had bought into the “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” mentality that if someone does something nice for us, we need to pay them back. Or if we do something nice for someone else, we expect something in return. In practice, this means that when it comes to our relationships with other people, there are no free gifts of love or sacrifice. Only down payments. Or repayments. Either the other person is in debt to us, or we are in debt to them.
Unfortunately, this is a relationship killing mentality, both in relationships between people, and in our relationship God. This is what Jesus tells us in today’s gospel. He explains that we don’t serve God with the expectation that he’ll repay us or that we’ll be entitled to something in return. The truth is that God doesn’t need anything from us anyway. But the good news is that he’s happy to give us everything we need, not because he has to, but because he wants to- as his free gift.
Readings from today’s Mass: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/110811.cfm
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