Grace to you!
Relationships have an element of reciprocity. Though the object of that reciprocity may vary from person to person, 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. Suppose at the end of the training, despite the money spent by the management, you didn’t improve on the necessary skills for your 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 the job. If for some reasons 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 business and were properly informed about the expectations. The business starts well. It became very successful. Unfortunately, your partner decides 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 simply concerning some in-house mismanagement, but the laws of the state are violated. The consequences would be grave for both of you and the entire business if the culprit weren’t called to answer 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 terribly hurt if a friend’s fair expectation of reciprocity isn’t met. Though people generally aren’t a hundred percent perfect in keeping their side of each relationship, a fair 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 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 are probably wrong. Rather, judgment is when our choices move us in the opposite direction of divine blessedness. The choice is ours. Jesus once said, “Not one was lost except the one who chose to be lost…” (John 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 unfruitfulness. It’s our choice.
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. 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 God-given 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 and God wouldn’t force us. By the way, heaven is for real so also hell.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.