22nd Sunday of the Year C
Go and sit down in the lowest room”
Transcendence of humility and the value of giving without return (Luke 14:1, 7-14 )
(Fr. Peter Madros)
When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, … go and sit down in the lowest room” said the Lord
“When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours” “call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind”
Why does Jesus insist upon requesting us to act contrary to our wishes or to that which we usually and unremittingly do? It is more reasonable to ask ourselves: Why and how did it turn into natural and customary with us, Christians, to do contrary to our Lord Teacher’s recommendations?
Some customs have been entrenched with us and brought about a number of popular attitudes to the tune of inviting those who invite us, to congratulate those who felicitate us; to give condolences to those who console us: “Life is but a question of indebtedness and discharge even to the extent of tears shedding”. There is no harm in invitations and receptions when they derive out of “goodwill” and generosity, particularly if it were extended to those who would not be able to reciprocate. However, we have to resist banquets when they turn into the purpose, thereby becoming the “momentous event”, and even the only valued event on the occasion of a baptism, wedding, engagement, graduation or death. Such practices overturn the scales; thereby the baptism ceremony is performed on the occasion of a banquet! How many baptisms were postponed due to the “lack of funds for throwing a reception?” How many a “Christian” refused to become a “Godfather” because of shortage of funds for gifts and receptions?! Let us not only resist the race for flaunting, an attitude so much cherished in the East, – even if it were to burden us with debts for the engagement expenses of the young couple or for their wedding to a point where the “offspring” would come “as part of the due interest” in poverty and grumpiness! Let us stop the race and the pride of being excessive in restaurants, receptions, and other expenses including the number of tiers of a cake for the occasion, while we forget that “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” (Jeremiah 9:23 and 1 Corinthians: 31), or the words of the Nations’ messenger Paul: “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6: 14).
A Pharisee – or a “separatist” invites Jesus for a Saturday meal (overly festive) at his home; the “invitation is ensnared” and the trap is “cooked” and “premeditated”, such that it was not the meal only that was cooked in advance in deference of the Sabbath! Jesus’ adversaries wanted to put him to the test in the event that he performed some miracle on the day of the Sabbath. Indeed, at the Pharisee’s he heals “a man who had the dropsy” (Luke 14: 2 – 6).
“When thou art bidden to a wedding”: whereas the Aramaic word used is “Mishtitha”, which stands for “a drink”, because it was customary to offer wine to the invitees (II John: 1 – 11). For the Jewish Pessah Seder, the goblet of wine plays a big role. Consequently, the absolute prohibition of wine for some new sects (particularly starting in the 18th century in England) is a result of misinterpretation of the holy texts. But drunkenness is always prohibited.
Also, we learn from Jesus’ acceptance of the Pharisee’s invitation about his humility and the reason behind his insistence upon us to take the last placement and to do charity without a return, in other words to be charitable and merciful in contradiction to the popular saying “nothing for naught”, or as the French say “rien pour rien”; or as the popular maxim advocates: “nothing is without value except for blindness and deafness”. God encourages us in today’s Gospel to alter our preconceptions and to call upon the “blind, the deaf and all invalids who are unable to reward us to be patient in the hope that, after a long or a short life span, we shall be rewarded in the resurrection of the righteous.”