Reflection for Sunday – August 28, 2016
Readings: Sirach 3: 17-18, 20, 28-29; Hebrews 12: 18-19, 22-24a; Luke 14: 1, 7 – 14
Preacher: Sister Janet Korn, RSM
Did you ever get passed over when you didn’t receive an invitation to a friend’s wedding, or a birthday party, or an anniversary celebration? It really stings! We feel left out and can’t figure out why we were not invited. Was it something we said, or didn’t say? Don’t they like me anymore? See if I will ever invite them again to my party! We find ourselves licking our wounds and not speaking to those stuffy former friends or relatives for quite some time.
Jesus got invited to many parties—the wedding feast of Cana, a meal with Martha and Mary, an evening with Zacchaeus and many more celebrations. I don’t think we know who invited Jesus to the feast mentioned in today’s Gospel but whoever he was he ended up being told a thing or two about the people he had invited.
Jesus glanced at the names on the guest list of the host and then Jesus spoke to him: “When you give a lunch or a dinner do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your rich neighbors—for they will invite you back, and in this way you will be paid for what you did. When you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind; and you will be blessed, because they are not able to pay you back. God will repay you on the day the good people rise from death.” We can only imagine the reaction of the host!
Jesus certainly calls our attention to those He names as people we should consider inviting into our lives—the sick, the poor, the lonely, the immigrant, the downtrodden—all those who lack refuge, good health, financial security, positions of authority and power. Jesus uses many methods and stories to instill in us the primacy of supporting those who are suffering, the under privileged, those who have little or no power in our society.
In our nation today divisions among us seen to be growing at a greater level than previously, or is it that they are just becoming more visible? Racial tensions have risen to the forefront with the Black Lives Matter movement. The economic gap is more evident by the salaries we bring home and the houses we live in. Immigrants and Muslims feel threatened by slurs and threats against them. These are our poor, sick, and alienated people that we are invited to bring to the table. Jesus suggests that we enter into conversation with them, that we get to know one another, that we share what we have with them.
It’s thrilling to see where this is happening…parishioners in White churches are meeting with parishioners in Black churches. They are sitting down together, discussing their own personal stories and experiences, their hardships and blessings, their histories, hurts, and humiliations. People are getting to know and appreciate one another. No one is sitting at the head of the table and no one is sitting at the end. They are sitting in circles breaking bread together.
The Nuns on the Bus came to town to talk with others about the economic gap. Rich and poor sat down together and spoke about their problems of education, transportation, employment, day care, salaries and health care. There was no head of the table and there was no foot. Everyone was in circles, sharing realistic possibilities about what needs to change in our society.
Muslims celebrated the end of Ramadan on July 5, 2016. In some places Jews and Christians were invited to join them in celebrating the end of their 30-day fast. It was a joyous and memorable occasion in which all prayed and feasted together. There was no head of the table and there was no end of the table. They were in circles sharing the bread of life, together.
Who sits at the head of the table and who sits at the other end has everything to do with who has the money, the possessions, the status and the power. Jesus may have been advocating a different way of relating through inclusion and sharing of gifts. Thinking back to the 40 days when Jesus fasted in the dessert and looking at the nature of his temptations it is rather clear that He was resisting prestige, possessions and the misuse of power. In today’s Gospel Jesus is inviting us to be conscience of our own role in society and how we can be more aware of others, outside of our own social networks.
If we don’t get invited to be at the head table of the next business party, or called on to say some words at a big social event, or even get overlooked at a family wedding it may not be so painful if we reflect on the kind of dinner that Jesus would host.