To Save a Life
Lk. 14:1, 7-14
On a sabbath Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully. He told a parable to those who had been invited, noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table. "When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor. A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him, and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say, 'Give your place to this man,' and then you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place. Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, 'My friend, move up to a higher position.' Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table. For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." Then he said to the host who invited him, "When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."
How to Find Someone who is Lost
We probably all have at least one memory of being lost. It can be an anxious experience. I remember being in a department store as a young child, unable to re-connect with my mother. We know what it is like to be lost or out of place. Christ knows how to help us be found once again.
Christ begins the reflection in today’s Gospel, starting with an everyday experience for the people who were listening to him.
We all have made the experience of showing up at a party or social event, and not knowing exactly where to go or what to do. In the times of Jesus, there was a strict hierarchy in the seating chart, and people were ambitious. So when Jesus invites us to an attitude of humility, he is opposing the social mores of the day.
We all want to know where we fit in. Jesus responds to this longing of the human heart so that his listeners can learn an important lesson.
When we look at the pull of social media nowadays, we see that so many people want to be seen. People participate in challenges. They see an accident on the road and pull out their phones to take a picture or video, instead of lending a hand. While there is something disturbing about the phenomenon, it does speak to the fact that we want to be seen.
We can fall into this trap of wanting to be seen and become disconnected from the faith. It seems that the world is progressing, and as a society, we have no way of relating to the stories of the Bible. But the Bible is always new and always old. Precisely part of the existential crisis that we suffer as a society comes from losing our grounding in the truths of the faith.
Who is lost? We can look around our neighborhoods, at our work, in school, or even within our own family to find someone who is lost. Are we willing to put in the necessary work to help this person find the way once again? Are we willing to make the invitation to come and take a better spot at the wedding banquet? We live in a world that is waning and dying for lack of Christ. So many people live in a sea of loneliness. We are called to be the hand-up that many people are waiting.
Nowadays, there is even the possibility of getting lost because of identity issues. Our fundamental identity, which we all share, is that we are sons and daughters of God. Through our baptism, we are adopted into God’s family and this gives us our deepest identity.
What can I do if I am lost or if I find somebody who is lost? Tolkien said that “not all who wander are lost.” I suppose he was right, but there are also a lot people who are wandering precisely because they are lost. What do we do when we feel out of sorts and disoriented? We have to look for our place at the Lord’s banquet. There are some people at mass today who have not been here for a while. Some priests complain about the people who don’t come. I understand the sentiment, but I feel it is more helpful to say “welcome.” If it has been a while, welcome back. We hope to see you again next weekend. As Christians, and Catholics, we need to learn to welcome those who have been away for a while and need a welcoming gesture much more than a reproach or a scolding.
Take somebody under your wing this week. Invite him back to church.