Our grandchildren teach us a host of lessons. So do the tots who are our nieces and nephews. One of those is the notion that any reward they deserve for doing something well should be instant. Whether it’s the right answer to our question; or the clever rick they have mastered; or even for the proper response to their potty training. Any reward will do, including applause, a piece of chocolate, or a sticker depicting Big Bird. If that reward does not come right away, then we grown ups have to risk seeing their tears or a disappointed expression on their cute little faces.
But here’s a question. Are we anything like self-centered children when we do something good for God? Do we use our talent for subtlety by mentioning what we did to friends or family, hoping that God overhears us? Something like this comes through the prophet Habakkuk’s rant: “How long O Lord? I cry for help and You do not listen?”
We know that Habakkuk did hear back from God “Wait for it (the vision of the future)..it will not be late.” That tells us for sure that God’s timing is quite different from our own. He notices whatever we do. If a reward is due, let Him decide when.
In addition to a timing lesson, we find in the Gospel selection from Luke another facet of God’s way of handing out rewards. “When you have done all that you have been commanded, say ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.’” That is the uncomfortable truth. Jesus is so right, but we think otherwise sometimes. All of our prayers and good works are basically what we owe to the Lord in the first place. So don’t act the hero when you’re just fulfilling your duty. But in the face of so many others who don’t obey the Lord, shouldn’t we get some recognition?
Of course, He regularly does that for us in the graces He sends our way. And in the great Sacrament of Reconciliation He restores our place of honor in His kingdom when we have not done anything good by sending us the graces of forgiveness and healing.
Instead of living for Christ with an eye to potential reward, the gospels, the great saints of our Church, and the truly good people all around us give an unflagging example of how to do it the right way. They show us what love and loyalty to Christ look like. It is in all those little things like daily rosary, regular courtesies and manners, together with a warm smile that together make for the building blocks of holiness. And by truly knowing and believing the doctrines of our Church to buttress their practice, like that of Christ’s true Presence in the Holy Eucharist, they evangelize. They spread the gospel.
A teacher had just finished putting the last pair of galoshes on her first-graders—thirty-two pairs in all. The last little girl said, “You know what, teacher? These aren’t my galoshes.” The teacher removed them from the girl’s feet. “They are my sister’s, and she let me wear them.” The teacher quietly put them back on her pupil. Now that’s patience! A largely unnoticed quiet decision, except by that little girl. Just a tiny analogy depicting how God is with us, and what He expects.