One day, a student asked anthropologist Margaret Mead for the earliest sign of civilization in a given culture. He expected the answer to be a clay pot or perhaps a fish hook or grinding stone. Her answer was “a healed femur.” The femur, of course, is a bone in the leg.
Mead explained that no healed femurs are found where the law of the jungle, survival of the fittest, reigns. A healed femur shows that someone cared. Someone had to do that injured person’s hunting and gathering until the leg healed. The evidence of compassion, she says, is the first sign of civilization.1
Whether it’s the ministry of health care or giving a cup of cold water, such a one will receive a reward we heard three times in our Gospel today.
You’ll also notice you hear the word “merit” a lot in our prayers of the Mass. Merit is a good work done which entitles the doer to receive a reward. The Latin term meritum is used in prayers because it sounds better than the other Latin word option called “merces,” otherwise, as Latin readers joke concerning Jesus’ statements in Matthew 6, Receperunt mercedem suam which is translated “They have received their Mercedes.’
Merit does not mean we are working our way to Heaven. In the Preface prayer for Saints, we hear, “In crowning their merits, you crown your own gifts.” Merit and grace are compatible. Not only is God the source of all merit; God’s generosity is so great that what he gives surpasses what we merit as some our prayers say.
Another example merit and reward by God-
John Bowes, chairman of the parent company of Wham-O, the maker of Frisbees, once participated in a charity effort. He sent thousands of the plastic flying discs to an orphanage in Angola, Africa. He thought the children there would enjoy playing with them.
Several months later, a representative of Bowes’ company visited the orphanage. One of the nuns thanked him for the wonderful “plates” that his company had sent them. She told him the children were eating off the Frisbees, carrying water with them, and even catching fish with them. When the representative explained how the Frisbees were intended to be used, the nun was even more delighted that the children would also be able to enjoy them as toys.2
The second form of our giving is our serving the Lord sacrificially-
Jesus says, “Love me more than father or mother or son or daughter and take up yours cross.”
Love Jesus first and above all else. Because it is only when we love people and things for his sake, do we really love them.
Some inconveniences like car trouble, a sick child, these are the little nails of inconveniences to fasten you to the main beam of the cross. Our crosses also come from our mistakes and sins.
“Well, well, well… if it isn’t the consequences of my own actions”
One must not impute to others a harm that one experiences by his own fault. Damnum quod quis sua culpa sentit sibi debet non aliis imputare.
“Surely, it’s a higher destiny “to receive our final beatitude [or final reward] as the fruit of our labors and as the recompense of a hard-won victory…than to receive it without any effort on our part,” in cooperation with God’s grace.3
“Eternity is not something that happens after you are dead. It is going on all the time. We are in it now.”
1. King Duncan, A Cup Of Cold Water, Sermons.com
2. Ibid3. George Hayward Joyce, Principles of Natural Theology, ch. 17.