On Inviting the Poor

Luke 14: 12-14
Rom 11:29-36 / Psa 69

…when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed.
(Luke 14:13)

All blessings in life we receive
There’s no way that we can repay;
In turn that’s the way we must give,
As God’s Word has shown us today.

Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14:12-14)

Reflection

Our Gospel today seems to be telling us that it is a small investment indeed to give a party to the poor and the handicapped, and be guaranteed a payback of eternal banquets in the kingdom of God! But was this really the quid-pro-quo arrangement that our Lord was proposing in order to teach His listeners to be generous and self-effacing? No. More likely, this lesson was a continuing indictment of men’s preoccupation with self-promotion (inviting only those with means or influence to maintain one’s social status), and extolling those who prefer to keep company with the humble. One invites the rich and powerful to exalt himself, but the other humbles himself by inviting the poor and the weak.

Those of us who have never known what it is like to be needy and underprivileged have much to learn from our poorer brothers. They can teach us much about genuine gratitude, which has become an “endangered species” among our richer friends and relatives. We can also learn from them how to value many things in life that we often take for granted. These precious lessons came to pass in one of the out-of-town trips that our running club took one summer vacation. The members of our club come from diverse strata of society: from wage earners, to students, to businessmen and professionals. We are all bound together by a common love for the sport or exercise of jogging and running. Once a year, 30 to 40 of us hire a tour bus to travel to distant places of interest where we can run and frolic for a week-end. On this particular trip, some of us decided to subsidize the expenses of six members who could not afford to come as our way of thanking them for their selfless contributions to the club. At the swimming pool over some bottles of beer and wine, they all unabashedly shared their gratitude for this rare privilege, one even tearfully relating that it was his first time to swim in a real swimming pool, and sleep in an air-conditioned room. One could almost cut a knife through that moment of catharsis, which had become a memorable part of our trip, an enriching experience no money can buy, for which we will always be grateful.

Thank you, Jesus for teaching us that an act of charity to one poor neighbor is more rewarding than inviting a hundred rich friends and relatives. Amen.

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