OCTOBER 30. Ord Time B. Wk 30. Sat. Lk 14. 7-11
Now on a sabbath day Jesus had gone for a meal to the house of one of the leading Pharisees; and they watched him closely. He then told the guests a parable, because he had noticed how they picked the places of honour. He said this, ‘When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take your seat in the place of honour. A more distinguished person than you may have been invited, and the person who invited you both may come and say, “Give up your place to this man.” And then, to your embarrassment, you would have to go and take the lowest place. No; when you are a guest, make your way to the lowest place and sit there, so that, when your host comes, he may say, “My friend, move up higher.” In that way, everyone with you at the table will see you honoured. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’
It is interesting to note how many times Jesus went to share a meal not only with the scribes and Pharisees, but also with people who were known to be sinners. We need to reflect on this practice because it happened frequently.
What it shows is that Jesus did not mix only with those who were his friends and followers, but he treated his enemies, and those who did not agree with his views and teachings, in the same way he treated his disciples.
Why was this? It was because of the truth which he both articulated and practiced, that he had not come to call “the blessed”, but rather sinners and those who did not believe! How could he do this unless he mixed with, and addressed, those who did not agree with him?
And this is what he did at today’s meal; - he took the opportunity to teach. When he noticed how the guests were all seeking to take the places of honour at the table, he addressed the practice in an open, but kind way, by telling them a parable that illustrated his views.
He said; - ‘When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take your seat in the place of honour,’ – a statement that would have had a powerful impact on anyone trying to sit at the head of the table; - and it would have caused them to reflect on their behaviour!
This was one of Christ’s favourite ways of teaching and correcting, because it involved a gentle approach, rather than confronting people who he wanted to change their views. Christ was a master teacher who only wanted people to understand what he was teaching.
“When you are a guest, make your way to the lowest place and sit there, so when your host comes, he may say, “My friend, move up higher.” In that way, everyone you at the table will see you honoured!”
There is a deeper message here however for anyone who wants to be a follower of Christ, and that is to renounce any desires, not only to be first, but also to not seek “the best.” There are many people in modern society who spend a great deal of energy, and money, in order to have “the best car” – “the best house” – “the best job” etc.
This teaching on the need for humility addresses the desires we hold in our hearts. Christ had no desires of his own; - except to do the Will of the Father; - and this was his ultimate message to his followers; - be content with the circumstances allocated you by God! “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’
Gospel Acclamation Mt11:29
Take my yoke upon you;
learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart.
First reading Romans 11:1-2,11-12,25-29 The Jews have not fallen for ever
Let me put a question: is it possible that God has rejected his people? Of course not. I, an Israelite, descended from Abraham through the tribe of Benjamin, could never agree that God had rejected his people, the people he chose specially long ago. Do you remember what scripture says of Elijah – how he complained to God about Israel’s behaviour? Let me put another question then: have the Jews fallen for ever, or have they just stumbled? Obviously they have not fallen for ever: their fall, though, has saved the pagans in a way the Jews may now well emulate. Think of the extent to which the world, the pagan world, has benefited from their fall and defection – then think how much more it will benefit from the conversion of them all. There is a hidden reason for all this, brothers, of which I do not want you to be ignorant, in case you think you know more than you do. One section of Israel has become blind, but this will last only until the whole pagan world has entered, and then after this the rest of Israel will be saved as well. As scripture says: The liberator will come from Zion, he will banish godlessness from Jacob. And this is the covenant I will make with them when I take their sins away.
The Jews are enemies of God only with regard to the Good News, and enemies only for your sake; but as the chosen people, they are still loved by God, loved for the sake of their ancestors. God never takes back his gifts or revokes his choice.