The way UP is DOWN – 22nd Sunday in Ordinary time – year C – Luke 14, 1, 7-14
Most people want the front of the bus, the back of the Church and the centre of attraction and that’s an interesting way of looking at today’s Gospel except that the Gospel has much more for us to cud on.
As usual Jesus is at a dinner and as one commentator put it so well, Jesus ate his way through the Gospels! And so here he is, at the home of a Pharisee perhaps a prominent one too. Interesting I have reason to suspect the Pharisees motive for inviting Jesus.
The Pharisees, by and large, were no friends of Jesus and neither was he a member of their mutual admiration society. Jesus has attacked the Pharisees on numerous accounts because of their duplicity of life. Now a Pharisees invites him over ON THE SABBATH (see verse 1) and we are told they are watching Him.
Interestingly, the scripture of today’s Gospel skips out the part where at this meal a man with dropsy seems to be planted by the Pharisees in this home. A further reading of the Gospel tells us that the Pharisees were scrambling for the best seats which further strengthens my belief that this was no meal to honour Jesus but a ploy to trap him and see if he would heal the man; which He did after duly chastising the Pharisees.
This brings us to our Gospel text. We are told that the guests were scrambling for the places of honour. The tense used here is the imperfect tense which indicates that Jesus was pointing to a recurrent habit; they always sought the best seats in the house! The Jews did not sit at tables like we do but at a ‘triclinium’ which consisted of three couches set in a ‘U’ formation. This meant that the best spot was in the centre on the right or left of the host.
Earlier in verse one we are told that they (the Pharisees) were watching Jesus but in reality, He was watching them (and perhaps us too). They were all jockeying for influential seats and so he tells them the parable set in today’s Gospel. The point that Jesus makes is clear. The Kingdom of God is a place for the humble. You can’t be full of God if your full of yourself. If God is going to use you then it can’t be all about you. The self-promotion of the Pharisees would only lead to their demotion.
And so Jesus in verse 12 confronts his host, the Pharisee, whom I suspect wanted to trap Jesus but now finds himself stumbling in his own web. The point being made is simple; let’s address what’s going on in our heart? Do we invite people for what they can do for us in return?
Most people would respond in horror to think that no one in their right mind would invite the poor, the lame, and the crippled. But that is exactly the point that Jesus wants to make. And that is the kind of disciples God wants us to be in the kingdom. We can’t just be fascinated by the kingdom; this is a call to be faithful. We may have attended every Sunday Mass and every Bible Class, we may be ardent attendees of every lecture on Jesus but that does not make us his disciples.
As St James reminds us in James 1:27, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” This week, spend time with people who are not like you especially those whom we are most uncomfortable to be with.
Fr Warner D’Souza