Today’s Gospel account tells us of Jesus being invited to a dinner at the house of a leading Pharisee. All eyes were on him when he arrived and, in return, Jesus was watching their behavior. The Pharisees were very religious people, and set themselves up as role models. Yet here they were scrambling for a place of honor, exhibiting just how proud, vain and selfish they really were. They were not there to honor their host, but to honor themselves. Jesus tells us that true spiritually embraces the virtue of humility.
Every Sunday we are invited to the most sumptuous banquet in the world — the Eucharist. Here Jesus is our host and we are his guests. Here there are no special places; you can sit where you desire. Here privilege, status, rank have no meaning whatsoever. Differences don’t matter. This is because before God we are all equal!
It is not that we are all reduced to the same common denominator. Rather, it is that all of us are raised up. We are like people on the top of a mountain. When being on the top of a mountain it would be silly to speak of first and last places, higher and lower places. The same applies to the House of God. In God’s House each place is a place of honor. Entering here makes everyone equal. When we enter the House of God, privilege is blown away like smoke, and we are all humbled, yet raised up too. This is an attitude we should take with us when we leave God’s House.
There is a story about how the mayor of a town invited all the townspeople to a lavish dinner. Among those who showed up was a man of great distinction by the name of Daniel. Daniel was a well-respected scholar and wise person. Yet he was very humble and shunned honors. When he arrived the mayor invited him to sit at the head table. Daniel thanked him but said he would prefer to sit among the poor at the table nearest the door. And that he did.
When other distinguished guests arrived, the mayor invited them to sit wherever they liked. Naturally they chose to sit at the head table. The banquet hall was filled up, and eventually the only place left was one at the table Daniel chose to sit at. At the last minute this distinguished man arrived and the mayor had no option but to take him to the vacant seat.
“But this is the bottom table,” the man protested.
“No, this is the head table,” the mayor replied.
The man said, “I do not understand.”
“Wherever Daniel sits is the head table,” the mayor answered.
The moral of the story: it’s not the place that honors the guest, but the guest that honors the place!
The banquet in today’s Gospel account is a symbol of the Kingdom of Heaven. We should not be concerned about seeking a place of honor in the Kingdom. We should regard it as a great privilege to be invited at all. In the Kingdom every place is a place of honor.
— Fr. Dennis, September 1, 2019