Extending our hospitality

28 August, 2022 22nd Sunday Year C

In today’s gospel, we see again how deeply Jesus understands our human condition. He had watched how people behave when they attend a dinner gathering and noticed how they presume to seat themselves in positions of honour.

His parable tells of the guest who is invited to a wedding and, having seated himself at the place of honour, is then asked by the host to give up that place and move to a lower position. We can all imagine the acute embarrassment and disgrace we would feel in such a situation. How we dread being embarrassed or disgraced, especially in front of others.

Jesus offers wise advice: choose the lesser place; then you can’t be disgraced, and you may even be called higher and have people see you honoured.

But more than simply sensible and helpful advice, Jesus is teaching his disciples about the Kingdom of God and who will be honoured there. There, he tells them, “All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Beware those who exalt themselves! The places of honour will be given not to the self-righteous but to the truly righteous.

In a second parable, Jesus turns attention to the behaviour of the host, the one who chooses the guests to be invited to the party. Here Jesus focuses on our tendency to invite those who are important to us, be it our friends, neighbours, colleagues, people who will reciprocate and return our hospitality and favour in some way. 

Radically turning this fairly normal way of doing things upside down, Jesus challenges us instead to invite and share our resources and extend our hospitality to the poor, the marginalised, the needy, the very people who won’t be able to repay us. If you do this, Jesus teaches, “you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Jesus doesn’t berate us for wanting to be repaid. What he wants us to understand is the hospitality to which we, his disciples, are called. His parables today point us to the hospitality that is the mark of the Kingdom of God, whose concern and preference is always for the poor, the lonely, the little ones, the marginalised, the lost, the broken-hearted.

Jesus himself is the supreme exemplar of the truly righteous; he who humbled himself even to death on a cross; he whose hospitality knew no bounds. No one was ever turned away. Everyone was welcome in his presence and at his table, rich and poor, learned and unschooled, young and old, male and female.

So, once again, Jesus profoundly challenges us to genuine humility and a generous hospitality in all our dealings with others – individually, as a community, and as a church.  

Anne Hunt

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