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Conduct of invited guests and hosts

Gospel Reading: Lk 14:1, 7-14
On a Sabbath Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully. He told a parable to those who had been invited, noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor. A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him, and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place.

Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, ‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’ Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Then he said to the host who invited him, “When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. 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.”

My mother used to give us an advice that is very much reflected in the First Reading: “What is too sublime for you, seek not, into things beyond your strength search not.” Mom would say, “Huwag ninyong tangkaing abutin ang langit.

Naisin lamang ninyo ang mga bagay na kayang abutin.” I remember she said this to me when I grew impatient after learning that I had to stop my schooling. In my mind I did not desire to “reach for the heavens or the stars,” but she was basically correct in connecting me with reality and in keeping my feet on the ground. We were poor, and my mother did not have the resources to support my studies. In the Gospel, Jesus accepts a dinner invitation and teaches both the guests and the host himself.

After observing how the guests scramble for choice seats, Jesus tells them a parable emphasizing humility rather than desire for honor. This is very relevant for us, Filipinos, who have endless celebrations and where “social positioning” happens around the table. The second part of Jesus’ teaching directed to the host is even more challenging for us, Filipinos. Jesus tells the host, “When you hold a lunch or a dinner… 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.” We usually invite back those who have invited us; we welcome to our banquets only those whom we know and those who have invited us to their own feasts. In contrast, Jesus teaches us to offer our feasts or banquets to those who cannot repay or invite us in return. Our regular feasts are discriminatory and exclusive: we welcome only invited guests; our doors or gates are closed to outsiders. But our fiestas are supposedly Christian celebrations of thanksgiving to God through the patronage of a saint.

They should be open to all and, as the Gospel says, should give priority to the poor who can eat good food only once in a while. Our fiestas are supposed to mirror the heavenly banquet, the Eucharist, to which everyone is invited. May we learn from Jesus’ teaching today: that we take social gatherings not just as social functions but as opportunities or contexts where we can imitate God in Jesus – through humble behavior and an inclusive love, attention, and even preferential option for the poor and the disadvantaged.

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SOURCE: “366 Days with the Lord,” ST PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail: publishing@stpauls.ph; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.