A Gospel call to throw a party for strangers
A Reflection for the Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
For every one who exalts himself will be humbled,
but the one who humbles himself will be exalted. (Lk 14:11)
Today’s Gospel is one of Jesus’ parables, which typically means that, while its core message resonates across centuries, the specific details of the story often do not translate literally to our modern lives. But ever since I read the story of Sara Cummins, I think of her each time I hear this Gospel and marvel at the ways in which her lived experience connects to today’s readings.
Ms. Cummins and her fiancé called off their wedding a week before it was scheduled to occur. The cost of the $30,000 banquet was non-refundable, and she did not want the food to go to waste, so she reached out to nearby homeless shelters in order to fill the 170 seats at the tables. “For me, it was an opportunity to let these people know they deserved to be at a place like this just as much as everyone else does,” Ms. Cummins told The Guardian. Local shops also donated formal attire for the event.
It’s unlikely most of us will have a chance to throw a $30,000 party for strangers, but each week we have a chance to offer a priceless welcome to all those who join us at the eucharistic table.
On what would have been her big day, Ms. Cummins, along with her mother, aunts and a few bridesmaids, humbly greeted her guests. On a day when she would have been the center of attention, she directed that attention to the needs of others.
It’s unlikely most of us will have a chance to throw a $30,000 party for strangers, but each week we have a chance to offer a priceless welcome to all those who join us at the eucharistic table. This parable serves as a good reminder to reflect on whether or not we are making enough of an effort to reach out to those who seem lonely, who feel unwanted or alone in our parish communities or in the church at large. We must see every Sunday as a celebration that gives us the chance to honor the needs and humanity of others, to remind ourselves of the ways in which we too are broken and in need. And to remember that in doing so we honor the one who invites all of us to the heavenly banquet.