God's Banquet

22nd Sunday One of the most basic human responses to anything new is to ask, "What’s in it for me?" We would like to think our motives are pure and our interests are for others, but there is often a nagging voice reminding us that selfish desires are never far from the surface. That said, we all know heroic individuals who care for sick spouses or children, who go to faraway places to give those in need their time and talent or who stay at home and do the same in their local neighborhood. That’s what makes them heroic. There is nothing in it for them; they are drawn by bonds of love, faith or by a desire to create a better world. There are at least two ways we can hear Jesus’ words in today’s gospel. The first is as a strong challenge about social justice. National boundaries mean nothing to God. All people are equal in God’s sight, so the banquet Jesus refers to has implications for how we share the riches with which we have been blessed with others in the world. The poor, crippled, lame and blind of our world are the majority of God’s children who mainly live in the Third World. They are our brothers and sisters. At the banquet of life Christians are called to give priority to the needs of these people, not only because they have a just claim on our resources, but also because they can’t do anything for us in return. They purify our motives. When we link our concern, time, talent, career, and money with these children of God, we tame that nagging question, "What’s in it for me?" with a firm reply, "Very little--except God’s justice." A somewhat comforting angle to take on this gospel is more psychological. Many of us, when we come to God at any time, try to give ourselves a make-over so that we might be more acceptable to God. Today’s Gospel reminds us that at Christ’s banquet, however, it’s not the poised and perfect who are most welcome, but the vulnerable. What does this mean for us who pray and celebrate the Eucharist? That God embraces those parts of us that are in greatest need of his love and healing--where we are poor, crippled, blind and lame. We know this it is true because if Jesus is telling us to host the poor and broken at our tables, then as the perfect host he must do exactly the same with us at the Eucharistic meal as well. When I was a child we referred to our finest clothes as our "Sunday best" and we wore them proudly to Mass. Not only did we look good, we acted the part as well. Everyone was on best behavior for the entire parish to see. Now, I have nothing against dressing with care and behaving well at Mass; it can be a sign of our self-respect, our courtesy toward others and our devotion to God. But is it truer that God cares about what’s going on inside us. We can never hide from God, especially at the Eucharist, because we have been invited to be here, not as we would like to be, but as we are. May the Eucharist, this taste of heaven’s justice, give us renewed courage to think beyond our self and national interests, and show to others the hospitality of God that has been lavished on us. May we discover that where is faith is concerned, that the real answer to "What’s in it for me?," is "More than we can ever hope or imagine." Richard Leonard, S.J.
Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
10 years 1 month ago
I am a member of a Protestant denomination and my parents taught me that we wear and act our best in church because we owe God our best at all times, and if our best is ragged and out of style it is still our best and honors the God we serve. They also taught that God is not only in His churches - He is everywhere and judges us by the way we treat our fellow man and hears our prayer in a closet or a forest as clearly as those we say in church.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

It is astonishing to think that God would choose to enter the world this way: as a fragile newborn who could not even hold up his own head without help.
Ginny Kubitz MoyerOctober 20, 2017
Protestors rally to support Temporary Protected Status near the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Sept. 26. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)
Around 200,000 Salvadorans and 57,000 Hondurans have been residing in the United States for more than 15 years under Temporary Protected Status. But that status is set to expire in early 2018.
J.D. Long-GarcíaOctober 20, 2017
At the heart of Anne Frank’s life and witness is a hopeful faith in humanity.
Leo J. O'Donovan, S.J.October 20, 2017
Forensic police work on the main road in Bidnija, Malta, which leads to Daphne Caruana Galizias house, looking for evidence on the blast that killed the journalist as she was leaving her home, Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017. Caruana Galizia, a harsh critic of Maltese Premier Joseph Muscat, and who reported extensively on corruption on Malta, was killed by a car bomb on Monday. (AP Photo/Rene Rossignaud)
Rarely does the death of a private citizen elicit a formal letter of condolence from the Pope.