Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 126

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. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

The Gospel of Saint Luke is rich with stories and teachings about meals; they are invariably pleasant gatherings of people sharing food, values and camaraderie.

There are no potluck dinners in the Gospel of Luke. The host provided all the food and drink and there was always enough.

(I take exception to those "explainers" who say that, when Jesus fed the 5000, the crowd actually became willing to share what they already had; it only seemed like a miracle. That interpretation misses the point altogether.)

There could be nothing worse than planning a party, inviting the guests, welcoming them to the table and running out of food and drink. You'll recall the crisis at Cana when Mary whispered to Jesus, "They have no wine." I don't remember ever attending a dinner when they ran out of food. Even in my childhood, scraping as we were to make ends meet for an ever-growing family, there was enough food.

Jesus uses this custom of the host's munificence to speak of God's extraordinary generosity, and of our own charitable practices. We should not invite people to dinner expecting to be invited back in return. That's not generosity; it's only an economical way for comfortable people to share their comfort. There's no harm in it, but don't call it generosity. Rather, the Christian invites and hosts the needy who cannot afford to play that game.

When the Catholic contemplates this mystery of generosity we think of communion. Communion is that spirit which draws people together and binds them in community. There is mutuality in that spirit. Some people would call it synergy, as they generate more willingness, enthusiasm and joy than they would have separately.

But Jesus will remind us that communion, which begins in his Sacred Heart, must also begin in my flinty heart. I should not wait for an invitation to be kind to others. Communion begins when I open my heart to receive whoever will enter.

This is more than risky; it's practically guaranteed there will be disappointment, hurt and betrayal. That's what the crucifixion means; and that's why the crucifix is placed front and center of every Catholic Church. 

When we see the blood and water pouring from Jesus' wounds, we know the Lord has exhausted his infinite resources in love for us. 

Inviting the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind to dinner is a simple gesture, a way to display the generosity of God, with all its attendant risks. 

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.