22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time | Year C
On a sabbath day Jesus had gone for a meal to the house of one of the leading Pharisees; and they watched him closely. He then told the guests a parable, because he had noticed how they picked the places of honour. He said this, ‘When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take your seat in the place of honour. A more distinguished person than you may have been invited, and the person who invited you both may come and say, “Give up your place to this man.” And then, to your embarrassment, you would have to go and take the lowest place. No; when you are a guest, make your way to the lowest place and sit there, so that, when your host comes, he may say, “My friend, move up higher.” In that way, everyone with you at the table will see you honoured. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’
Then he said to his host, ‘When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not ask your friends, brothers, relations or rich neighbours, for fear they repay your courtesy by inviting you in return. No; when you have a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; that they cannot pay you back means that you are fortunate, because repayment will be made to you when the virtuous rise again.’
Often the penalty for arriving late to Mass, or to a seminar, conference or talk is having to take a seat in the front row because the seats further back are full. For many New Zealanders that tendency to choose a place in the back row makes it rather difficult to relate to the situation Jesus describes, where certain people were vying to sit in the high places next to the host at the banquet. But at the heart of this parable there is single concept that is for back row people just as much as it is for those who seek the “high” places.
Jesus uses the word “invited” nine times. Invitation is at the heart of his relationship with each one of us. He invites us to enter into relationship with him, to enter the banquet room; and then he invites us to come closer to him.
It is easy to believe that we can create that closeness ourselves, like the invited guests who uninvited, took places close to the host. But all our steps towards Jesus are in response to his invitation, in whatever time and circumstances it appears. Simply being in the room is not enough. In the lowest place, at the back of the room, our work is to prepare ourselves to hear his invitation to come closer, and to respond.
It is possible to settle down in the back row as an “ordinary Catholic” and to tune out completely the invitation Jesus offers to come closer to him. The pressures of living can create noise which drowns out the invitation, or they can make a response seem to be just another pressure.
It is also possible to be an apparently extraordinary Catholic, working in the parish and helping with Catholic activities, and to have tuned out the invitation to come closer to Jesus. Being useful to others keeps the invitation safely at bay, because this invitation might lead us into risky places...
Being humble in the lowest place is not about ignoring the host and his invitation to come closer. For just a few minutes each day, for just this week, make space for the invitation