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Check Out the Cost!

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One day I was shopping for a birthday card for a friend of mine who was divorced and the mother of 10 children. 

I was standing in the card shop in front of the Birthday Card section labeled “Friends”.  A little ways down from me I noticed a little man in his 60’s or 70’s standing in front of the Birthday Card section labeled “Wife”. 

I started watching him because he was doing something most interesting, He’d take a card out of the rack and the first thing he’d do is turn it over and check out the price. Every so often he’d read through a card twice and snicker, as if saying, “Prove to me that this card is worth $4.99.” 

The more I watched this man the angrier I got. Here I was buying a birthday card for a divorced friend with 10 kids and this man looked like he had been married for 40 or 50 years. I wanted to go over and shake him and say, “Buddy, you ought to be happy you’ve got a wife and that you’ve been married for all these years. Why does spending an extra dollar really matter?”

But I didn’t. I bought the card for my friend, took it and my anger, and left. As I drove home all I could think about was the scene I had just witnessed. As I got out of the car in front of the rectory, it hit me like a ton of bricks. 

Oh my God! I’m no different than that little man! Why? What is the first thing I check out when I’m asked to do anything? What’s the cost? And I don’t mean dollars. What is going to be the wear and tear on me? What am I going to miss out on? Is this something I need to do? What stress will it add to my life? Will it mean getting stuck in traffic or my missing supper?

No wonder I didn’t like the little man. He was me!!

I’ve told this story a few times. Once a woman came up to me afterwards and said: “Don’t get so upset about the little man, Father. The first thing his wife probably does when she opens the card is to turn it over and see how much the old boy spent on her!”

In today’s Gospel (Matt 22:1-14), Jesus tells us a parable about a king who invites guests to a wedding for his son. But some of the guests check out the cost and decide not to come. One has a farm, another has a business. Like out of today’s news, some of the invited guests wind up being terrorists and they kill the king’s servants. The king burns their city and invites others, good and bad, to the wedding banquet. 

A couple of years ago some really good friends of mine sent me an invitation to their 25thwedding anniversary. I put the invitation in a drawer and forgot all about it. A couple of weeks after the celebration I found the invitation. I called them to apologize for not responding or coming. The husband blurted out and said, “You missed a really great party. It was right on the beach by the ocean and all of the guests said it was the best party they had ever been to.”

The banquet that Jesus is talking about in today’s Gospel, the banquet Jesus is inviting us to, is the Big Party, the really Big Party – the Kingdom of Heaven. I ask myself, “Laz, you misplaced Bill and Ann’s invitation, but have you also misplaced Jesus’ invitation to the one and only party that really counts – the Kingdom of Heaven Party? Why I am so willing to give up or jeopardize so much – life eternal later on for a little taste of the here and now?

The world you and I live in says that today’s Gospel has it all wrong. Today’s world wants us to believe that this is the only world we’re going to live in. Don’t worry about another world beyond this one. Would any of us really want that? Imagine living forever in this world?

A priest one day stopped a parishioner who was always whizzing by him after mass and said: “Whenever I see you, you’re always in a hurry. Tell me where are you running to all the time?” 

The man replied, “I work hard. I’m running after success. I’m running after fulfillment. I’m running after the rewards of all my hard work..”

The priest then said, “That’s great, if you think that all of those blessings are somewhere AHEAD of you. And if you run fast enough, you can catch up with them. Maybe those blessings are BEHIND you or NEXT TO you. They may be looking for you. The more you run, the harder it will be for them to find you. THE LOVE THAT COUNTS IS THE LOVE THAT COSTS!”

How do YOU check out the COST whenever someone asks you to do something?

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