Opening the Word: Come to the misfit banquet


If you’re going to a party, with the right people, then you want to make sure that you fit in. You want to be able to walk in, converse eloquently with the prim and proper, dress for success and sit in the right place. The closer you are to the guest of honor, the one to whom you’re courting favor, the better.

This is the logic of the world. How dreadful it’d be to show up underdressed, underprepared, under-fancified. First impressions matter. And there’s business to be done.

As we hear from our Lord Jesus, God operates out of a strange logic. Jesus attends a dinner. Everyone is determining where they’ll sit. Who will sit next to the guest of honor? Who will be relegated to the kids’ table, far away from the honored guest?

If we examine our motives truthfully, we’d probably put ourselves at a seat of some importance (but not the most importance). It’d be uncouth to presume that we are the most important person present.

But at the same time, surely we’re more important than him. Than her. Than them.

So Jesus tells us this parable: There is a wedding banquet. Don’t take the highest place, the seat where you’re most likely to court favor. Instead, assume the lowest place. If the host sees you, and believes that you’ve placed yourself too low, then you’ll be raised to a higher seat!

Good news, right? All we have to do is to assume a certain faux-humility. Yes, I am not worthy to sit there. Yes, I am not as important as that one. Yes, the Lord will notice and invite me higher.

Not so fast, proclaims Jesus.

The banquet of the kingdom of God is not about courting favor with the important, operating out of a false hubris that is really an opportunity to recognize our self-importance.

If we are to hold a banquet, we should not invite the important. We should not invite those who we hope might advance our cause before Congress or in the Vatican.

We should invite the poor. The crippled. The lame. Those who can’t repay, who can’t use their importance to increase our status. The banquet, as it turns out, is pure gift, pure joy, pure delight.

In reality, this is the banquet that the Church hosts each week. It is the banquet of the Eucharist, the mystery of Christ’s body and blood.

We don’t invite the self-important, those who are seeking to be seen by their neighbor as righteous. We invite the entire Church to sup at the Eucharistic altar, to discover a love that comes as pure gift. There are no places of honor. There are no places of prestige.

Those who dine at this banquet should learn the logic of this most peculiar of banquets. The Eucharistic hospitality offered to us by our Lord Jesus, who invites us to the supper of the Lamb, should pass over into our homes.

We welcome the hungry child, the lonely friend, the neighbor in need. We offer this hospitality not because anyone will notice. Likely, they won’t.

We offer it because we have learned to assemble our guest list from Jesus Christ. It is a guest list of the lost, the lonely, the hungry, the thirsty.

We welcome these guests not in bitterness, not in the sense of our self-righteousness.

Rather, like Jesus Christ, we welcome because we delight in their presence.

We delight, because the misfit banquet, in the end, is the one where we belong.

22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time – Sept 1, 2019
SIR 3:17-18, 20, 28-29
PS 68:4-5, 6-7, 10-11
HEB 12:18-19, 22-24A
LK 14:1, 7-14

This article comes to you from OSV Newsweekly (Our Sunday Visitor) courtesy of your parish or diocese.


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