“Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”
There’s something culminating about this week’s Gospel. I hinted at this a few devotions back where the title was, “How Trinity 4 answers Trinity 3.” But we’ve been given a series of Gospels from Luke, and there are some themes tying the Gospels together.
The first week we had Lazarus and the rich man. The rich man had no mercy, no desire to give from his abundance and invite the poor man to his table. Well, the measure he used was measured back to him, and he ended up in the torments of Hades.
The second week built off that theme, where Jesus shows a good “rich man,” the man who hosts the banquet, a great banquet full of abundant giving. He invites the Lazaruses of the world to share the feast at his table.
The third week built off that image, getting a bit more into the character of those who go out seeking the lost in the hedges and highways. We see another good “rich man” receiving the Lazarus known as his lost son, a poor, wretched man who ended up at his gate, so to speak. He invited him to the table and restored him.
That’s what the rich man should have done. So in a sense, we get a little mini-cycle, a thematic loop, so to speak. We begin ordinary time after Trinity seeing two characters, a rich man and Lazarus. The rich man sets up the theme on how not to be, or what God does not look like. It may even be Jesus’ critique on how the Jews had poorly represented God for the world because of their traditions. Meanwhile, Lazarus is a stand-in for all of us, the one who needs to be helped, the vagabond, the poor, maimed, lame, and blind; the lost coin, the lost sheep, the lost son – all of us! And all of them, it might be noticed, are as passively acted upon as the caught fish are in next week’s Gospel. We are the objects of something huge going on, in which we’re sort of “carried along.”
This week takes off the mask, so to speak, that a parable inherently puts on, the hidden meaning lurking behind the story. This week gives us the bare theology. The Father is merciful. That explains what the rich man was not, and why the other rich men did what they did. The Father doesn’t judge or condemn. This is why the sheep wasn’t abandoned, or the son left to his foolishness.
And the Father gives out of His abundance. This explains the abundant meals and joyfulness going on in the first three Gospels: the meal denied Lazarus, the great banquet to which the poor were invited, and the feast of the fatted calf for the prodigal son.
Interesting that when Jesus talks about the giving nature of the Father, He focuses on the bosom. The bosom point seems to be where all the grace goes on. Jesus Himself, after all, came from the bosom of the Father. Eve came from the bosom of Adam. Children come from the bosom of their mothers. The Church came from the bosom of Christ, as water and blood poured out of His side, laying the foundation for baptism and communion.
The bosom is a place of grace, something St. John learned, and as a stand-in for all of us, knew himself only as “one who Jesus loved,” or perhaps we could say, “one embraced in the overflowing goodness in the bosom of Christ.”
Christ, being from the bosom of the Father, is a direct manifestation of God’s goodness and eternal, Trinitarian nature. His nature is to give. That is His character. He gives from His abundance, His eternal abundance, and we need not fear that we don’t have access to that same abundance.
And as Jesus suggests, the extent to which we fear the exhaustion of that abundance, out of lack of faith, is the extent to which we will not share in the fullness of that giving. Because it’s usually those who have this mind who lack in charity and mercy for others. Like the first rich man, he had it all, yet he had nothing to give. Imagine! Having it all, but being so full of worry and fear, that you believe yourself having nothing to give. Well, it was measured back to him.
Christians should not be of that mind. We have a Father who gives abundantly, overflowing to His Son, overflowing to us, and from us, overflowing to our neighbors, to the Lazaruses, poor, maimed, lame, blind, vagabond, lost sheep, lost coin, and lost sons.