daily biblical sermons


AVOID GIVING DINNER PARTIES, EXCEPT TO FEED THE POOR
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Monday, 31st Week of the Year, November 04, 2019
Romans 11:29-36, Psalm 68, Luke 14:12-14


Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted

 

 

 

“He [Jesus] said also to the man who had invited him, ‘When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your kinsmen or your rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and you will be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just’” (Luke 14:12-14).

 

 

Today Jesus teaches us something strikingly new, even shocking to a secularized person who has assimilated himself to the de-Christianized culture around us. This new teaching goes against one of the main rules of social relations, as we find them in the world today, where people regularly entertain their friends with late night elaborate dinner parties were the finest food is served together with much good wine and other similar beverages.

 

 

According to this practice, one will invite his close friends and those with the means to return the favor by inviting him to a similar elaborate late night dinner party with much flowing wine and fine dining. If a person invites ten or fifteen guests, he can expect to be invited in return to ten or fifteen other dinner parties given in turn by each of his guests, until he finds himself on a regular weekly dinner party circuit, which becomes part of his worldly way of life.

 

 

Jesus strikingly goes against this custom, telling us today, “When you give a dinner or a banquet do not invite your friends or your brothers or your kinsmen or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and you be repaid” (Luke 14:12). If you give dinner parties, you are living on a purely natural level, imitating the worldliness of the culture around you. Jesus says, Do not do this. Do not have big late night dinner parties with heavy drinking. Do not allow yourself to get on a never ending dinner party circuit. This is not a virtuous thing to do for a disciple of the Lord.

 

 

If, however, you feel the craving for giving dinner parties, then “when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you” (Luke 14:13-14). You will truly be doing an act of charity for spiritual reasons, for the love of God. Your love of God will be expressing itself in your love of your neighbor, and your motive will clearly not be to get invited in return and have a rich social life. God will reward you if you do this strictly out of love him and your neighbor. “You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:14b).

 

 

What a radical break this is from the way most people who have the means to give dinner parties live! Jesus is not recommending that we get into this dissipating merry-go-round of late-night heavy drinking and elaborate feasting on sumptuous gastronomic concoctions, with subsequent late rising the next day, with little or no time for prayer and meditation. This is not the way of life of a disciple, concerning whom Jesus says, “So therefore, whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14: 33).

 

 

We should use our money, which is in excess of what we need to live a simple, dedicated life, for helping the poor and for advancing the preaching of the gospel throughout the world. We should not use our money on our own entertainments and on entertaining those who have every means of properly feeding themselves. If we follow the teachings of Jesus and St. Paul, we will see that this striking teaching very much fits in with many other things that they say. For example, Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24).

 

 

The service of mammon is the service of wealth and of the worldly pleasures that it buys for us. Living on the constant merry-go-round of an elaborate, late night, heavy drinking dinner party circuit is hardly living for one master only, the Lord. It is trying to live either for mammon alone or for both mammon and God. To live for mammon alone is obviously wrong for a disciple, and to live for both mammon and God is impossible, for Jesus says quite clearly, “No one can serve two masters … You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24).

 

 

But giving a dinner party for poor people who need the food is another matter altogether. First of all, none of them can repay you in any way, so you will be in no danger of getting on the merry-go-round of a never ending dinner party circuit. And you will be using your money to feed the poor who need the food, and your money will not be returned to you by the people you feed, but rather by the Lord himself, for that is what the Lord Jesus promises us today, “You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:14).

 

 

We will also be repaid spiritually in the present, knowing that we are avoiding a dissipating way of life and are doing God’s will in loving our neighbor as ourselves. We will be heeding Jesus’ warning, “Take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day [of the Lord’s return] come upon you suddenly like a snare” (Luke 21:34).

 

 

So how should we, then, live if we follow this teaching of Jesus? Jesus tells us to break with the customs of the world and follow the new customs of the “new man” that he himself teaches us when he says, “For whoever would save his life [trying to fill himself with worldly pleasures] will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s [by avoiding worldly dissipation, and living rather for the glory of God and the service of others] will save it” (Mark 8:35).

 

 

So let us follow Jesus’ invitation and lose our life in this world for his sake to find our life in God. Let us not be lovers of our life in a worldly sense but rather haters of a worldly way of living, haters of a worldly lifestyle for the love of God, for Jesus tells us, “He who loves his life [in a worldly way by worldly living] loses it, and he who hates his life in this world [sacrificing it for the love of God] will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:25).

 

 

We must renounce worldliness, as St. Paul tells us, “Far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). May we be crucified to the world and to its worldly ways, to its late night drinking and elaborate dinner parties.

 

 

Let us renounce a worldly way of life in order to be a friend of God, as St. James says, “Unfaithful creatures! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).

 

 

St. John says the same, telling us that we should not love a worldly way of life, nor have a worldly lifestyle, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).

 

 

We should love the world as God loves the world, namely to save it from sin and from its own rebellious worldliness. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

 

 

We should not be like the rich glutton “who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day,” and when he died went to hell and was tormented by the flames (Luke 16:19, 22-23).

 

 

Indeed, we are not to be of the world any more than Jesus himself was of the world, as Jesus said in prayer to his Father, “I have given them [his disciples] thy word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:14).

 

 

If we are not of the world, how are we supposed to live? Jesus tells us in his first beatitude, “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God … But woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation” (Luke 6:20, 24).

 

 

Jesus specifically tells us today that being poor means staying off the dissipating merry-go-round of a dinner party circuit, and rather use our time, energy, and money to genuinely serve the poor and preach the gospel to them.

 

 

If we disregard Jesus’ words and rather live like a dissipated rich man, submerged in all his many worldly pleasures, we will have great difficulty getting into the kingdom, for Jesus tells us, “Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:23-24).

 

 

Rather than taking the wide, easy, and pleasurable way of the merry-go-round of a never ending late night elaborate dinner party circuit, Jesus tells us, “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13-14).

 

 

If we truly want the treasure of the kingdom of God in our lives, we must renounce a worldly lifestyle. We must renounce everything for the sake of the Lord. Only by doing this will we be able to enter the kingdom, just as the man who discovered a buried treasure could only obtain the treasure by selling everything else he had in order to get enough money to buy the field and so claim possession of it (Matthew 13:44). We too must renounce many things – a worldly life – to enter into the kingdom of God.

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