Jesus goes to a banquet, invited by one of the leading Pharisees of that region. It is a special Sabbath meal, prepared very meticulously the evening before. As is the custom, those who are invited are friends of the host, high ranking Pharisees, doctors of the law, models of religious life for the all people.
Seemingly Jesus doesn’t feel comfortable there. He’s missing his friends, the poor. Those people who are found begging on the roads. Those who are never invited by anyone. Those who don’t count: excluded by convention, forgotten by religion, looked down upon by almost everyone.
Before saying goodbye, Jesus speaks to the one who had invited him. It’s not to thank him for the banquet, but to shake his conscience and invite him to live with a style of life less conventional and more human: «Don’t invite your friends or your brothers or your relations or rich neighbors, in case they invite you back and so repay you… Invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; then you will be blessed, for they have no means to repay you and so you will be repaid when the upright rise again».
Once again, Jesus makes the effort to humanize our life, messing up -where necessary -the plans and criteria for acting that seem to us most respectable, but which deep down are pointing out our resistance to building that more human and fraternal world that God desires.
Ordinarily we live locked up in a circle of family, social, political, or religious relationships that help us mutually take care of our own interests, leaving outside those who can’t offer us anything. We invite into our lives those who in return can invite us. That’s that.
Slaves of a few self-interested relationships, we aren’t aware that our wellbeing is only sustained by excluding those who most need our generous solidarity to be able to live. We need to hear the Gospel cries of pope Francis on the small island of Lampedusa: «Our culture of wellbeing makes us numb to the cries of others». «We have fallen into the globalization of indifference». «We have lost our sense of responsibility».
Jesus’ followers need to remember that opening the paths to God’s Reign doesn’t consist in building a more religious society or in promoting an alternative political system to other systems that may come along, but above all in generating and developing more human relationships, ones that make possible the conditions of a dignified life for everyone, beginning with the least.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf