Twenty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (2016)
By Fr. Leroy Clementich, CSC
There are approximately forty-five Holy Cross priests and brothers, including myself, living at this retirement home on the campus of the University of Notre Dame. We are all fairly similar in background: Caucasian, Catholic, well educated, professing the same religious vows, being from average middle-class families; we all received much the same training over the years. And yet, when I first came to this house, it surprised me how many different individual groups seemed to have formed. It became most evident to me especially in the dining room. It took me a while before I finally found a group with whom I could feel comfortable and find it easy to associate with.
I have often reflected on that on-going experience and I believe it is similar to the experience of many in the human family: Individuals consort with those who seem to have the same background, characteristics, plans for their lives, etc.
Another common characteristic seems to be our human tendency to compare ourselves to others and somehow assume that we belong at a higher social, intellectual, even spiritual level than they. As I mentioned above, the tendency toward cliquishness often arises most clearly when we ask the question: “With whom do you prefer to eat?”
Jesus asks that same question in the gospel for this Twenty Second Sunday in Ordinary time. When was the last time we invited “social outcasts” to dinner and ate with them, especially those who would have no way to reciprocate: the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, LGBT folks? Would our association with them advance or hurt our social standing? In other words it seems true that the people we regularly choose to dine with have a way of defining who we are or think we are. Most of us Christians, I imagine, would claim that we espouse diverse values, yet how often do we make a deliberate choice to eat with anyone not of our own racial, political, religious or ethical affiliation? For many of us, that might be an embarrassing question.
Pat Marrin, a columnist for the periodical Celebration recently made this point when he wrote: “We look around us in church and if all we see are people like ourselves—our zip code, economic and educational status—have we really heard the challenge Jesus proposes in today’s gospel?
One of the scandals of the Christian church is that Sunday morning is still the most segregated time in America.”
So, then, what options does Jesus offer us in today’s gospel? It all becomes clear when He notices invitees at a dinner each straining to find the most prestigious and important place at the banquet table. Using my own words, Jesus points out that a higher place at table does not make you any more important in the eyes of your associates. Going even further. Jesus suggests that if you are planning a banquet, do not first send invitations to those whose presence you believe will make you look important and invite you back to a dinner in return. No, if you wish to be seen as truly important in the eyes of others, invite beggars, the crippled, the blind and the lame. You should be pleased that they cannot repay you. You will be repaid in the kingdom of your Father.
Without doubt, this is a challenging gospel; of course, Jesus hardly ever taught us anything that would make us feel comfy and satisfied. Rather, if after reading Jesus’ words we begin to feel a bit embarrassed, perhaps at that point the beginning of the lesson has begun to soak in especially for those of us who live in this nice, comfortable retirement home where we seldom encounter the blind, the lame, the crippled or even LGBT folks.
The scriptures: Sirach 3: 17-18-20, 28-29 • Hebrews 12: 18-19, 22-24a • Luke 14: 1, 7-14
USCCB Bible Daily Readings: Twenty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time