The Invitation to the Feast, Burnand 1899, Kunstmuseum, Winterthur, Switzerland.
[Jesus said] 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. Luke 14:13-14.
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Today’s gospel begins with Jesus talking to us all and advising us to avoid a situation at a banquet we have been invited to, where we might sit unwittingly at the place of honor. Don’t do that, Jesus warns, because someone “more distinguished” may arrive and you will be asked to move down amid much embarrassment. That actually happened to me once. I had been invited by a rather grand colleague at work to his place for dinner and I sat in the host’s chair. I had never been to such a grand repast and did not know the etiquette! Jesus was right – it was very embarrassing. I never did it again! Pity I hadn’t memorized this parable. In fact, sitting in the host’s chair was worse than Jesus’ example. In his story, the Lord himself is presumably the host! Then comes Jesus’ punch line – we must invite to our banquet those we know will never be able to reciprocate, the poor and the lame, as listed above, as we see them walking towards the feast in the picture above. Well, I never hold feasts or banquets. People who eat with me might be a single friend or alone. How on earth can this parable apply to me or, I suspect, you? In fact, what is Jesus’ point? Perhaps two points suggest themselves here. Last Sunday I talked about entitlement, those who, in a situation of challenge, will come out with the deadly line “Do you know who I am?” Well they might also be the ones who will grab the best seat at a banquet because, of course, they are entitled to it! And great will be the protests if they are asked to move down, because, guess what, someone who is greater than they has arrived! They might even be asked to leave… The first reading today looks as if such people were in mind when it was written: “Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God.”
But then there are the poor and the lame. They have nothing. They are coming because, one, they have been invited, and two, they are hungry. Where do we find that sort of situation in the year 2022? Well, working in a soup kitchen would be one way. Another way is supporting one or more charities geared to exactly those sorts of people. The blind need guide dogs. Guess how much it takes to train such a dog? – over $40,000! So there is a charity for such a need. The Christians in the Middle East have been victims of religious persecution in the last 20 or so years. Most of them are poor. Who could possibly help them? Kids who have been kicked out of their home for whatever reason and are now on the streets with nothing: where can they go for safety and care? And so it goes on and on. Be assured, there is a charity for whatever you think more needs to be done in this world. Find it and support it so that they (and you!) can come to the feast! The world’s millions of refugees, almost every single one almost certainly with nothing – what can I do about it? How about the children of single mothers who have committed a crime and are now in prison? As I said, it goes on and on. As a help to supporting these people – and many more – take a look at Charity Watch, which is a kind of watchdog of charities, and can recommend those which give the highest percentage of money raised to their cause. Yes, there are many people in the parable invited to the feast, each one able to tell a tale of misfortune, cruelty, war and plain old bad luck. So those of us who are not in a terrible situation have a responsibility towards those who are, and it is our Christian obligation to help them as best we can. And rest assured, as Jesus himself said, the poor will be always with us and will always need our support in a million ways. I am assuming that God has blessed most of the readers of this webpage with a living which has its challenges, but is nothing like the challenges reported above, mostly way beyond our experience (and we all pray it remains that way). We are not, as today’s second reading states, touched by “gloomy darkness and storm and a trumpet blast”, for which, I am sure, we are, each of us, truly thankful. And at each Eucharist (a Greek word meaning thank you) we utter our profound gratitude. And it is because of our generosity that the feast has been laid out, and the guests invited…
Reflections on next Sunday’s Mass Readings will be posted on Wednesday.
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