The Punishment Is Worth The Reward

My mobile rang at ten till three this morning. It was the girl my daughter and I went to see on Sunday. I was trying to wake up enough to make sense of what she was saying. Her rambling, mumbling words said that someone she had ‘met’ had come to her flat to ‘visit’ her and now he wouldn’t leave and would I come help.

I snapped to enough to realise what she was saying. ‘No,’ was my response. We had already discussed these issues before and I reminded her of what I’d said; that she is ‘wholly accountable for her own actions.’ She responded in a raised voice ‘I swear on my son’s life we weren’t doing anything.’ My immediate reply; ‘that’s precisely what this involves – your son’s life.’ I was going to continue by reminding her that each time she placed herself at risk it would further prohibit her from being able to see her son. But I didn’t get far enough to say this to her. She had slammed the phone down on me.

There's a familiar old saying that says, 'No good deed goes unpunished.' St Paul gives ample testimony to the truth of that axiom. He was doing his very best to share the Good News, travelling all over the Mediterranean, working long days, writing endless letters, and supporting himself by working part-time as a tent maker. His one hope was to help transform people's lives in a healthier and happier direction, but what he got in return, as often as not, was hostility and ingratitude.

There's more than an historical value in his life story, because our own lives inevitably contain some of the same kinds of experiences. Whether in our families or elsewhere, we set out with the best of intentions and do our best, but too often reap nothing but indifference or grief.

It was always thus, so we'd better decide how to respond to such experiences when they come. One option, of course, is simply to disengage and walk away. But that wasn't Paul's choice. Because he believed in what he was doing, he kept doing it, whether he got the kudos or not. That's what it means to care deeply and to be faithful.

It will help a lot to keep Paul's way of living and loving in mind. He got it straight from Jesus.

Holy Lord, may we know that it is the journey that is important. May we never give up on reaching out to others. Help us to see each other through spirit and not through worldly eyes. In Your name we pray. Amen


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