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Reacting or choosing? Jesus wants us independent


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Fr. Luigi Maria Epicoco - published on 10/31/22

Those who react to others in a mirror-like manner never actually choose

Today’s readings can be found here. Read Fr. Epicoco’s brief reflections on the daily Mass readings, Monday through Saturday, here. For Sunday Mass reading commentary from Fr. Rytel-Andrianik, see here.

We live in a society and culture dominated by quid pro quo. If you love me, then I love you. If you respect me, then I respect you. If you treat me badly, then I treat you badly. 

This sort of justice, which on the surface is very convincing, hides a trap. Those who react to others in a mirror-like manner never actually choose: They always let others choose, and consequently they only respond in kind. Truly free people make their own independent decisions without necessarily waiting for reciprocation. They are free because the way they live isn’t conditioned by others’ actions. 

This is what Jesus tries to encourage in today’s Gospel:

“When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or sisters or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Jesus’ explanation shows that the secret of joy is to go looking for situations where we can give without receiving anything in return.

To live this way, we must understand a fundamental rule of love: People who truly love are happy to do good without being seen. Those who truly love, do so even when the person they love isn’t in a position to notice. They enjoy the benefits of your love but never feel indebted because of it. Freely given love is never currency; rather, it’s a love that doesn’t even go looking for gratitude.


Father Luigi Maria Epicoco is a priest of the Aquila Diocese and teaches Philosophy at the Pontifical Lateran University and at the ISSR ‘Fides et ratio,’ Aquila. He dedicates himself to preaching, especially for the formation of laity and religious, giving conferences, retreats and days of recollection. He has authored numerous books and articles. Since 2021, he has served as the Ecclesiastical Assistant in the Vatican Dicastery for Communication and columnist for the Vatican’s daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.

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