30 August 2006: Wednesday of the 21st Week in Ordinary Time
2 Thess 3, 6-10, 16-18; Matthew 23, 27-32
Indira Gandhi tells us about her grandfather. Her grandfather said that there are two kinds of people: those who do the work and those who take credit. He told her that she should try to be in the first group because there was less competition there.
The readings today tell us two things corresponding to Indira Gandhi’s kinds of people. First, those who work. In the first reading, St. Paul said that he himself worked for a living in order not to burden any of the Thessalonians and at the same time, give them an example of the dignity of labor. He said that if anyone who was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat.
Second, those who take credit. The Gospel tells us that Jesus referred to the Pharisees and scribes that they looked like white-washed tombs that looked good from the outside, but the inside of them contained bones and filth. Those who take credit are like them: they would like to be praised about work they have not done. Or, they are concerned with how they look from the outside. They are filthy because they are, as Jesus called them, hypocrites. All they wanted was the pleasure they get from being praised, but do not like the pain and patience that goes with the work. Many students experience this especially in group work. In a group of five, you have two to three students doing the bulk of the work, while the rest gets the credit. I have a story about those who like pleasure but hates working. I have a story:
Smith died and regained consciousness in the next world. He looked out over a vast expanse of pleasant country. After resting comfortably for a while in a delightful spot, he began to get a little bored. He called out, “Is there anybody here?” An attendant, appropriately dressed in white, appeared and said gravely, “What do you want?”
“What can I have?” asked Smith.
“Whatever you want.”
“May I have something to eat?”
They brought him delicious dishes, even the things he liked best on earth. Smith was having a wonderful time eating, sleeping, and calling for more good things. But presently, he wanted something more. He called for games. They came in profusion. Then he called for books and read with excitement and pleasure. He called for anything that struck his fancy and received it in abundant measure. But at last the boredom caught up with him, and he shouted, “I want something to do!”
The attendant appeared and said, “I am sorry, but that is the only thing we cannot give you here.” By this time, Smith was frantic for something to do and in his terrible frustration cried out, “I’m sick and tired of everything here; I’d rather go to HELL!”
“Where do you think you are?” asked the attendant.
I am not surprised why St. Paul, the great saints, and the greatest heroes all worked their keep. The recognition they got is a product of hard labor. Great people are those who value their work and put everything they’ve got into what they do. John Ruskin said that the highest reward for a person’s toil is not what they get for it, but what they become by it. No one became truly great by taking credit for something they did not do. But even if people believed that they really had worked hard for it, the satisfaction remains empty. It is hell to carry a great lie.