Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jesus invites us to live the life that he lives. When we look at Jesus, it can be helpful to recall that “he did not have to do this” and “he wanted to do this… he chose to do this.” Remembering always that this “true man,” Jesus Christ, is also—and from all eternity, even before he becomes man—“true God,” we can also affirm, when we see Jesus, that “this is the way that God is.” There is no aspect of Jesus’ life that does not reveal who God is. And, the God that Jesus reveals, the God of Jesus Christ, always surpasses and surprises our own relatively mediocre notions of what it means to be god. These notions, these “gods,” are but idols; in Jesus, we encounter the revelation of the one true God.
We should always seek to understand the demands that Jesus makes of us in relationship to the divine life that is revealed to us in Christ’s life. If we separate what Jesus says from who Jesus is, we might mistakenly think that today’s gospel offers self-help or leadership advice. In Luke 14, Jesus is not inviting us to be manipulative or to take the lowest place out of some sort of false humility, knowing—presumptuously—that by so doing we will actually “win” in the end by being promoted ahead of those who are seated higher than us. No. If we contemplate the human life of Christ and realize that it is a full and faithful revelation of his eternal, divine life, then we realize that what Jesus invites us to do is nothing other than to live the very life that he lives, which is the life that he shares with us. Jesus is the one who takes the last place and is exalted by the Father. Rather, Jesus, “though he was in the form of God, [he] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of slave” (Phil 2:5-7). Jesus takes the last place, but not because he wants the first place, but because it is the place that God wants. It is, in fact, the people in the last place who discover that it is the first place—to their surprise—because that is where God is, where God wants to be. Likewise, we are told to “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind,” those “unable to repay you” when we have a banquet, because that is precisely who God invites to his banquet. We are “the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind” who are unable to repay the Lord. But, since we are unable to repay the Lord, poor though we are, we have the privilege to offer others what we have received by rejoicing in serving those who are unable to repay us, not as people who lord over others, but as people who are overjoyed to have the privilege to share with others what we have received. When you receive the poor, thank them in your heart and in person for having come to the banquet. Rejoice they they have come and allow you to serve them, as the Lord rejoices when you allow him to serve you.