Today’s readings are all about being kind, something which we all could do a whole lot more of in these troubling times.

We are called to be caring for others, to emulate the example of the “woman of influence,” who lived in Shunem showed to the Prophet Elisha. This childless woman, the wife of a man older in age, is shown kindness by Almighty God through his prophet Elisha and is able to bear a child thanks to the simple hospitality she offers to this itinerant prophet.

Note that this reflects, albeit imperfectly, the story of Abraham and Sarah in the Book of Genesis. Note, too, that this miracle occurs soon after another kindness that ­Elisha performs for a widow of one of the guild prophets whose children are about to be taken into servitude by her creditors. It is important to also remember that the greatest kindness that Elisha will give to the Shunammite woman comes when he raises her son back from the dead. Elisha does this because she was kind toward him, always providing him with a bed and board in the midst of his travels.

Yes, a little kindness goes a long way! Our Lord Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel, taken from Saint Matthew’s Gospel:

“Whoever receives you 
receives me,
and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.
Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet
will receive a prophet’s reward,
and whoever receives a 
righteous man
because he is a righteous man
will receive a righteous man’s reward.
And whoever gives only a cup of cold water
to one of these little ones to drink
because the little one is a 
disciple —
amen, I say to you, he will 
surely not lose his reward.”

Why are we kind to one another? I mean, in the ultimate sense, why are we good to one another? We show love and kindness to one another because we are created in the image and likeness of God who is love. In our little acts of kindness, we reflect, in our own limited, frail human manner, the love that God has for us, indeed the love that God truly is in himself.

Another question then: do we really believe this? Do we really believe that God is kind and merciful toward us? Do we truly believe that, as our responsorial psalm tells us: “My kindness is established forever?”

A big trend a number of years ago in spiritual direction and in retreats, one that has become a rather standard theme in homilies, concerns our image of God. Using what is a rather obvious psychological truism, it is apparent that our relationships, our experience on the natural level, color our perception and our experiences on the supernatural natural level. For instance, if we grew up with a critical, punishing parent, then, quite often our image of God is skewered.

It’s important to recognize this in our spiritual life. As obvious as it may be to many of us when we hear it aloud, when we are trying to grow in our spiritual lives, it is far less obvious. Our past relationships on the human level, particularly with figures of authority most definitely affect the manner in which we relate to the Divine.

If we have been hurt in the past by others, especially those who have been trusted by us who have had positions of authority over us, it is a tragedy which can alter our entire life. And it is natural that we can project our feelings of distrust, distress, anger and insecurity onto our image of God. But healing, albeit slow healing, can occur, when we allow ourselves to understand how loved we are by Love Incarnate — Jesus Christ, our Lord, who as Saint Paul tells us in his epistle to the Romans which we proclaim today, dies to sin for us and raises us up to new life in him.

This week, pray for this grace of healing our image of God. See in the good works and kindness of others and in the little acts of charity we do Charity himself present — the Lord. Pray also for the healing that so many of us need in our relationships with others who have hurt or betrayed us.

Father John Cush is a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn who serves as Academic Dean of the Pontifical North American College in Rome and as a professor of theology and Church History.