Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.
This gospel is another passage that shows Jesus sharing a meal and at the same time breaking the social rules of his time.
Lots of stories in the gospel are about meals and the way Jesus refused to stop eating with the wrong people, the unclean, the outcast, the sinners, his political enemies. His actions and stories about meals are a great metaphor for the kindom of God.
What's our experience of meals? Special occasions, birthdays, anniversaries and lots of special life moments are celebrated by meals. They can be very happy times or very lonely times. It's a time when grief and loss are very present, when relationships become very vulnerable or very intimate. Sharing meals, sitting at table with others was one of the very difficult things for the men or women coming from prison. Survival needs take over and relational skills get forgotten. Meals are such a big part of our lives there are many and varied happy and sad memories evoked. We have expectations put before us with advertising and the many and varied cooking shows on TV. Wedding expos put great expectations on couples planning a wedding party.
The party here in the hall last Sunday was a great metaphor of the kindom of God. All were invited, the whole community took part in various ways to enable Andrew to be celebrated and honoured. It was also an occasion when care of another was very evident in so many ways. It was a wonderful example of ways in which Jesus invites us to consider others in our sharing of food. For each of us there's some special moment when we think back on it, where our hearts were touched. Something special moved my heart. When a heart expands with love our world becomes more loving and a better place.
In contrast the meal Jesus was invited to in this story is one where he is being invited to the dinner party so his enemies can trap him into saying something they could use against him. The other guests were competing with each other for for the best places at table. That prompts Jesus' parable. It's interesting to note that he is not condemning the desire to be honoured and admired. It's not a case of having low self esteem or denying our own worth. It's about not pushing ourselves forward at the expense of another; being aware of the divinity within us and acknowledging it in others. The recognition of the worth and value of each creates community rather than competition. A more loving place to be.
The second part of the gospel seems like a parable also but it's very straight talking in plain language. He says to his host
When you have a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your relatives or wealthy neighbours in case they 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.
Even today it isn't the done thing to tell the host what should have been done and who should have been invited to the party. There are many experts in historical and cultural background of the gospels, one of them, John J Pilch makes it clear that the behaviour of Jesus here was nothing short of shocking! To tell the host how to run a party was the height of bad manners but even that wasn't the worst of it. The custom of inviting only equals to a social event, and only those who could (and did) repay you, was absolutely basic to the culture of Jesus' time. To do otherwise says Pilch, would be social suicide. Jesus even says the guest list is wrong!
So what Jesus is really doing here is turning the cultural world of his time on its head. This, of course is a common theme throughout the gospels. It is also the reality of his life. He lived what he said. We are invited to do likewise.
Luke puts the teachings of Jesus about honour, pride, prestige and caring for people who are marginalised in a dramatic context. The intention is not to annoy other guests or ridicule the Pharisees but to present the Kindom of God as something revolutionary. In the upside down world of the gospel, everything is turned around. The humble are the exalted ones. The rich are the poor. The Crippled and lame are the well. The blind are the ones who see.
Our own culture doesn't help us keep this awareness. We are encouraged to think and bargain for promotion of self and personal status and acquisition. The common good is presented as of secondary importance.
Public policy is often packaged to deceive us as if there is real care of the poor. The spin on policy can present as caring but can be anything but. Our own experience is often different. It's not often public policy reflects the real needs of the poor or marginalised. We see this right here in the decisions around housing policy, law and order, cuts to pensions, stopping the boats. When we are informed and discerning we often find a false premise behind a plausible sounding argument.
What is the invitation of Jesus in this gospel? It' about something much deeper than table etiquette and protocol. His concern is to Teach us about the kindom of God which begins with a God who continually invites out of love, care and compassion.
As Christians and Australians we are likewise called to be INVITING PEOPLE.
Do we have inviting attitudes or are we frightened we might be disadvantaged or taken for a ride?
Do we speak inviting words or do we think it might cost us?
The example put before us by Jesus is of God's inclusiveness, God's welcome, God's love and invitation for us to draw near and we do that by drawing near to our neighbour, to break down barriers that separate us from one another, to seek out the neglected and rejected and embrace them. It's a call modelled by Jesus to love unconditionally. He did it to the point of giving his life for others.
The Catholic Church today marks this as Migrant and Refugee Sunday, raising our awareness. We have been hearing for a long time about the trauma, pain suffering and damage inflicted on asylum seekers on Manus and Naru and many other places around the world. We must ask ourselves how much we buy into the fear generated by politicians, media and others. The gospel doesn't allow us to push people away. The gospel today reminds us to look at our guest list and see who is included.
In the end, it is not about eating. Sharing the meal is about something deeper. It is about sharing our lives, about a radically inclusive loving. Who do we keep out and who do we let in? Jesus made it one of the defining points of his ministry to choose to eat with everyone, no matter what. We are one people, one world opening our hearts makes all the difference. In our sharing each of us becomes more truly human and nourishes that spark of divinity within us.
Questions to help our sharing
What do you think is Jesus' intent in his invitation to rewrite the guest list? Think if a meal you shared with another. Does sharing the meal change you? Your relationship? Your experience of the world? Your sense of hospitality?
Sr. Anne Jordan