by: Resty M. Castillo
One of the striking characteristics of Jesus’ Mission is meal fellowship in solidarity with the people who are sinners and poor. He does not eat at the palace with kings, but with the tax collectors and the outcast. We can read the stories in the gospels wherein, after Jesus performs a miracle and preaches, he eats with such people. For example, he eats in the house of Zaccheaus the tax collector after he invites himself to the home of Zacchaeus. Why is it that table fellowship is so significant in the mission of Jesus? It is because it beautifully symbolizes the banquet which God has prepared and to which which everyone is invited, especially the poor and sinners. It is due to the mercy of God that the banquet is being prepared for the lost, the least and the last.
God has prepared special seats for them. These people are always at the corners or edges of the society and have never been given the chance to experience the care and importance within the community. God’s merciful eyes see their miserable state; that's why Jesus came to bring the invitation to a beautiful banquet waiting for us in heaven. In the Gospel today, Jesus has noticed how many proud people want to sit in the place of honor and the poor are left in the corner.
There is really an injustice in the event. Therefore, Jesus uses the parable in order to warn these people who feel righteous like the Pharisees in choosing the place of honor in the wedding banquet. The wedding banquet is being used in the parable to illustrate the kingdom of God. It is not us who decide to choose the best seat but only God. The proud and self-seeking person will realize that there is someone who is a more distinguished guest coming. Because of this presumptuous it will be a cause of great embarrassment when they will be asked to take the lowest place.
This can be a parallel story to Matthew 25:31- 46 about separating the sheep from the goats. It illustrates the last judgment. In this parable Jesus doesn’t provide criteria on how to be included in the banquet, but he only asks us to serve others selflessly or dying for the sake of others. Jesus has already given us the example how when he says “do it in remembrance of me”. Serving others who cannot repay us is what God wants from us is. It is a call to discipleship, a personal following of Jesus. It is therefore important to establish a deep relationship with Jesus in order for us to learn from his example of love, in words and in deeds, so that we too can respond radically to the call to embrace God through the lost and forgotten.
It is God’s revelation to us that in the person of Jesus we encounter God in person. The Lord has given us the way to become more worthy of a place in the banquet in heaven with God. It can be easy if we have humility and a heart that is burning with love for God. Jesus teaches us how to have a heart that reaches out to others, especially the lowly and the lost. In verses 12-13, Jesus teaches us to make the humble act of inviting people that we do not know (the crippled, the lame, the blind and the poor) because they cannot repay us. St. John Eudes recommends to his community that, on the night before the feast of Heart of Jesus, the community opens its door and invites the poor to dine with them.
This is an expression of what John Eudes teaches about the loving mercy of God toward all. And this act of perfect charity doesn’t expect anything in return and we are not doing it just because of some reward. Rather we do it because we want to grow in the loving example of Christ. The Lord simply reminds us that whenever we do charity, we should do it voluntarily with people who cannot pay back. When we do something for someone, we never expect anything in return. A friend of mine is a devotee of the Black Nazarene. Part of his devotion is to give a big offering during the Mass. However, I was saddened when he told me about his intention in doing so. He is expecting to receive in return than he gave. He is thinking that God is like a bank who will pay back interest. Many of us are like my friend, who is doing good things to expect payback.
This is not what our Lord teaches us. It is not about doing, but rather becoming. We pray because we wish to have a deeper love for God. We go to Mass in order to express our gratitude to God. So, it is necessary to ask ourselves: what is really our intention of doing service for others. Is it for a reward or as a way of imitating Christ. What is our motivation in attending the Mass? Is it an obligation or a devotion to show our love of God more and more? As we are participating in the banquet of the Eucharist, let us ask the Lord for the grace to purify our intentions in whatever we do in life. May the Eucharist also help us to respond to his invitation to a deeper relationship with him through radical and permanent discipleship.