Monday, November 06, 2006

31st Monday in Ordinary Time (II)
Whose Party?

Readings: Philippians 2:1-4; Psalm 131:1bcde, 2, 3; Luke 14:12-14


I’m not sure, but I wonder if it sometimes happens that we take Jesus’ words too literally and end up acting contrary to the spirit of what he says. Last Saturday, for example, when Jesus told us to make your way to the lowest place at the dinner table so as to humble oneself, isn’t it possible to do exactly that but in such a way that one might instead draw more attention to oneself? And can’t we do the same with what Jesus says in today’s gospel? Isn’t it possible for us to impose our hospitality, our gifts, our ideas upon others in subtly condescending ways that increase our self-esteem and our reputation even as they inconvenience, embarrass, or even humiliate the recipients?

Isn’t it often an even greater test of the genuineness of one’s charity and care for the needy – or those one perceives to be needy – to receive and enjoy their hospitality, their gifts, their ideas? Even for Jesus, while he did help many by teaching, healing and working of miracles, did he not also do what we see him doing in today’s gospel: enjoy the hospitality of tax-collector and Pharisee alike?

Could this be an expression of the disposition that Paul encourages the Philippians to cultivate in the first reading: always consider the other person to be better than yourself? Not an easy thing to do, especially if the other is clearly much less well off, whether materially, emotionally, or spiritually. Yet – however needy the other might seem to be – isn’t there something that s/he has to offer me as well? And doesn’t true hospitality, true humility consist first in allowing oneself to receive that precious gift of the other?

Could this be a way to the kind of unity and peace that Paul is exhorting the Philippians to cultivate? Where everyone is united… with a common purpose and a common mind? Could this be a way in which we might enjoy that about which the psalmist sings: that our souls might be kept in silence and peace before God?

Could it be that Jesus is exhorting us today not just to throw more parties of our own but also to see how we might grace the parties of others? After all, isn’t our ultimate goal to all be guests of the Divine Host, to enjoy His hospitality at that Final Party of Lasting Joy?

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