22ND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – C
When we are invited to a party or a special event, don’t we put on our best? We wear our finest jewelry, the dress we like best, the latest hair style simply because we want to rise to the occasion. There is nothing wrong in being our best most especially when there is a good reason that calls for it. Under normal circumstance, our place in an event is determined by economic status or affinity to the host. Those who have more in life are normally secured with the best seats in the gathering most especially when the seating involves a price. To the world, they are reserved to those who can pay the price and to the VIP’s.
During a meal with a leading Pharisee, Jesus noticed how everyone wanted to take the places of honour. He used this particular event to teach His disciples a new ethos of the Kingdom of God in the context of an heavenly banquet. By telling them a parable, the lesson He wanted to teach them was far from proper social etiquette or table manners. It was about true humility as the proper disposition of the disciples.
Before God, no one can claim any entitlement simply because everything that we have and are come from Him. St. Paul reminds us: “What do you have that did no come from God? If you then received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?” (1 Cor. 4:7). Our very existence and everything therein is God’s gift that we have to acknowledge for to deny the giver of the gift is the rejection of the inherent goodness of life.
Being followers of Jesus, we are to remain humble in the true sense of the word. We have to be careful because sometimes our humility is with a hook. I cannot claim any merit because I have given up my family, my personal dream and a lot of more. Nor I should not expect that God will reward me just because I practice acts of piety more than other people. It would be false humility if I chose the least, the last and lowest knowing that God will eventually give me a better lot. If I have given anything to the Church, I should not use it as a subtle bribe to ask God to reward me. When I offer mass, pray the rosary or do a novena, it is not because I am asking God something in return. We may have good intentions but they should not be used to persuade God to give in to what we want after all we have given Him something.
In the heavenly banquet, the best seats are reserved not only to the great saints but to the least of God’s Kingdom. It will be given to us not because we merited it but because it is given as the ultimate gift to those who faithfully follow Christ.
The second part of the gospel is not about who to invite in our meals but another Christian ethos in our social relationships which is conditioned by our own biases. Normally we just limit our acquaintance to our favorite circles like family and friends which is legitimate. But as followers of Jesus we also have to be open and accessible most especially to the least, marginalized and the unwanted in our society. This might be a difficult thing to do unless we are ready to bring down our biases against others without considering the colour of their skin, the language they speak or other affiliations. When we celebrate the Eucharist which is the foretaste of the heavenly banquet, there are no more distinctions among us. In this banquet, all the best seats are reserved to sinners and saints amongst us as if we are members of the royalty. It is our joy to know that to God we are all VIP’s!