Grace to you!
Relationships have an element of reciprocity. Though the object of that reciprocity may vary, there is a fair expectation of it.
Let me use simple job training as an example. You landed a new job. The management walks you through some procedures and training. The onboarding and training to get you going costs management some resources. Suppose at the end of the training, despite the investment so you will perform optimally, you didn't improve the necessary skills for the job. What would likely be the result?
Unless the job belongs to your family and your family doesn't care about the consequences, I don't think you would retain it. If for some reason you do, the organization may be negatively impacted. The expectation at the end of your training is a reciprocal expectation.
Let me use another example. You started a small business with a family member or a close friend. Two of you were the best of friends. You and your partner researched the relevant laws concerning the company and were adequately informed about the expectations. The business started well. It became very successful. Unfortunately, your partner decided to ignore crucial policies and procedures. It was his choice.
Thus, the company's books weren't adding up. You could smell a rat, not only concerning some in-house mismanagement, but the state's laws are violated. The consequences would be grave for both of you and the entire business if the culprit weren't held accountable for the gross, unethical actions. What would you do?
Ignore it? Demand accountability? Isn’t it clear that the baseline expectation underlying your dilemma in handling this problem is an expectation of reciprocity?
I see this all the time as a priest ministering to the pastoral and spiritual needs of people. Many are gravely hurt if a friend's fair expectation of reciprocity isn't met. Though people generally aren't perfect in keeping their side of each relationship, a reasonable expectation is taken for granted.
May we apply this analogy, partly and carefully, in the understanding of judgment. Some people don't want to hear anything about divine judgment, though they wouldn't mind watching a movie on cataclysmic Judgment. Nonetheless, judgment, divine judgment, could be seen in the light of reciprocity.
If you suppose that judgment is when God calls us and punishes us for the wrongs we have done, you most probably miss the point. Instead, judgment is when our choices move us in the opposite direction of divine blessedness. It is us who choose the road to perdition. The choice is ours. God does not choose for us. The Lord once said, "Not one was lost except the one who chose to be lost…" (Jn 17:12).
The expectation of reciprocity is that, generally, people move towards what is their preference, and each has a reciprocal consequence. Not making use of our blessings is choosing to appear unblessed, just as there is a thin line between lack of love and hate. Some choose love, others the opposite of love—hate.
The Blessed Lord Jesus condemned the unrepentant people of three cities in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 11:20-24. The cities—Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum—were wealthy and influential. The Lord Jesus walked, worked, and did many miracles revealing his identity among them. Yet, they didn't believe in him. The expectation of reciprocal gratitude was lacking. It's like rebuffing a handshake. Never rebuff a handshake.
Heaven is for those who return love for love and offer love for hate. It’s the home of those who welcome a handshake of Divine Grace and Revelation. Heaven is when, despite our limitations, we show how grateful we are of our blessings. A state of mind with this disposition of gratitude fears no judgment nor sees it as agonizing.
Keep this in mind, at least for today. God's expectation isn't a give-and-take that benefits God, but a response that makes us better for it. The law of reciprocity, in this sense, is part of our success story. It's our choice. Heaven is our choice. So also, hell. God wouldn't force either on us. Moreover, the claim that hell is spurious does not change the reality of divine judgment. We get what we choose.
I pray we reciprocate love for love. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Tuesday, Week 15, Ordinary Time: Is 7:1-9; Matthew 11:20-24]
Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu PhD., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.