Sep 1 2019 Reflection
Sunday 1 September 2019
First Reading: SIR 3:17-18, 20, 28-29
God, in your goodness, you have made a home for the poor.
PS 68:4-5, 6-7, 10-11
Second Reading: HEB 12:18-19, 22-24A
Gospel Reading: LK 14:1, 7-14
Today’s Note: Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
On a sabbath Jesus went to dine
at the home of one of the leading Pharisees,
and the people there were observing him carefully.
He told a parable to those who had been invited,
noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table.
“When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet,
do not recline at table in the place of honor.
A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him,
and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say,
‘Give your place to this man,’
and then you would proceed with embarrassment
to take the lowest place.
Rather, when you are invited,
go and take the lowest place
so that when the host comes to you he may say,
‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’
Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table.
For every one who exalts himself will be humbled,
but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Then he said to the host who invited him,
“When you hold a lunch or a dinner,
do not invite your friends or your brothers
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.”
When you hold a banquet . . . (Luke 14:13)
Doesn’t it seem as if Jesus is giving his fellow dinner guests etiquette lessons here? He’s telling them whom to invite and whom not to invite to their parties. He’s advising them on how to choose a seat at the table. He’s even showing them how to avoid the embarrassment of having the host move them to a lesser place!
But Jesus is doing something more important than teaching good manners. He is challenging his listeners—and us—to move beyond the safe circles we tend to build for ourselves. We are all familiar with the gatherings Jesus describes in this passage: parties filled with “friends . . . brothers . . . relatives . . . wealthy neighbors” (Luke 14:12). They’re cozy. They’re comfortable. And they create a closed loop. There is no room for people who are different from us, especially the poor or anyone who might make us feel uncomfortable (14:13).
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with family meals or neighborhood gatherings. Jesus loves seeing us come together and enjoy each other’s company. He even promised to be with us when “two or three are gathered” in his name (Matthew 18:20)! The problem comes when this is the only kind of interaction we have. He doesn’t want to see us trapped in the same closed loop that ensnared the people in today’s Gospel.
Jesus isn’t expecting you to throw open your doors and host a meal for any and all takers. But he is asking you to stretch out your hand a little more to the “poor” people around you. It could be a family from your parish or neighborhood who is struggling through unemployment. It could even be a wealthy neighbor who, now retired, lives alone and whose family never visits. You don’t even have to share a meal. All Jesus is asking for is your willingness to give without expecting anything in return. It’s what he does for you; now he is asking you to do the same.
“Lord, help me to reach beyond my circle of comfort to touch the lonely and needy around me.”