daily biblical sermons

Do not get on an endless dinner party circuit, seeking the best place and enjoying a constant round of payback invitations
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Saturday, 30th Week of the Year, October 31, 2020
Philippians 1:18b-26, Psalm 41, Luke 14:1, 7-11

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




“One Sabbath when he [Jesus] went to dine at the house of a ruler who belong to the Pharisees, they were watching him … Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he marked how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, ‘When you are invited by any one to a marriage feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest a more eminent man than you be invited by him; and he who invited you both will come and say to you, “Give place to this man,” and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, “Friend, go up higher”; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.’ He said also to the man who had invited him, ‘When you give a dinner or banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your kinsmen or 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 14:1, 7-14).



In this gospel reading, Jesus teaches us humility. This is a key virtue, because it illustrates our interior attitude, which should be total submission to God and living for him alone, not for our own pleasures in this world, as St. Paul tells us, “He [Jesus] died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:15).



The people at this banquet that Jesus is attending are all competing with each other, trying to get to the best seats that are closest to the ruler giving the banquet. He sees this as indicating that they do not have a proper life orientation of humbling themselves before God so that God is everything in their life, and their own honor and prestige in this world are of no concern to them.



So, if one is truly humble and is invited to a banquet, he will not care about getting the most prestigious seats closest to the ruler who is sponsoring it, but rather will be a simple, poor, humble, meek, lowly person who is living according to the Beatitudes and take a simple, ordinary, lowly chair. This shows that he has the proper orientation, the kind of orientation that Jesus himself came to teach us.



So, Jesus’ conclusion is, “Every one who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11). And indeed, in this parable those who have the wrong orientation and try to sit right next to the ruler will find that he has to tap them on the shoulder and tell them that there is an important magistrate who needs to sit in this seat next to him, so he asks him to please get up and give him the seat. Then, when he gets up, he sees that all the other important seats have already been filled, and so has to go down to the back of the hall and take a poor, simple, ordinary chair. And furthermore, everybody at the banquet who was supposed to be so impressed at how close he was sitting to the ruler will be laughing at him under their breath as they see him walk down in public humiliation going lower than anybody in the whole room and taking the last chair at the end of the table. So, he who thought he was exalting himself ended up being publicly humiliated in the sight of the entire gathering.



This is simply a parable. It is not only about seats at banquets, but about our basic life orientation. A Christian should not struggle to be great and honored in this world, but rather to be humble, meek, and submissive to God. Didn’t Jesus say in his Beatitudes, “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)?



So, we must be poor and poor in spirit, meek, lowly, and humble in this world, because we are not living for this world. We are not to be of this world, but rather of the kingdom of God, and we are to live for God, not for human honor and prestige. We should not be serving two masters, God and mammon (worldly pleasures) (Matthew 6:24). We should not be seeking worldly honors, but rather how to completely honor God with our life.



In other words, we should be losing our life in this world, rather than aggrandizing it. He who tries to save his life in this world by always getting the first place at prestigious banquets will end up losing his life with God; but he who takes the humble way and offers himself totally to God, irrespective of human applause or mockery, is the one who will save his life with God, “For whoever would save his life [in a worldly way] will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:35).



We should actually be crucified to the world and its honors, banquets, and prestige, as St. Paul says, “But 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). We should be crucified to the world, to worldliness, to worldly values, to worldly prestige, and to worldly living if we want to live a true and honest life for God in this world.



Instead of loving our life by loving its honors, we should hate to live a worldly life and to live for worldly honors and pleasure, for “he who loves his life [in a worldly way] loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:25). Instead of living a life of self- aggrandizement, we should live a life of self-denial, denying ourselves the unnecessary pleasures of this world for the sake of having an undivided heart in our love for God, as Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23 NKJV).



So, we should not live like a rich man and not put on airs like a rich man, showing ourselves off so that others will admire us for our importance and prestige, as Jesus said, “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).



Indeed, we are not to be worldly people. We are not to be of the world as Jesus told us, “I have given them [his apostles] thy word [O Father]; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:14). Seeking the first places at banquets and getting on a constant dinner party circuit is being of the world, is being worldly.



Then Jesus says a quite remarkable thing, namely that if we give a banquet, we should not invite our family and friends, our brothers, kinsmen, and rich neighbors, but rather we should invite the poor and maimed, the blind and the lame who can’t repay us. Then indeed will we be repaid at the resurrection of the just (Luke 14:12-14).



Surely this is the opposite of the way most people think and want to live. They want to invite their family and friends. They do not want to invite poor indigent people whom they don’t even know to a Christmas party or a Thanksgiving dinner or a marriage feast. But Jesus very strikingly goes against this natural desire and tells us the exact opposite. This shows that his values are not the values of the world; they are kingdom values, and kingdom values are very different, even the exact opposite of worldly values.



Jesus does not want us to get on an endless worldly dinner party circuit. First you give an elaborate dinner party and invite all your friends and family. Then what will happen? The following week, one of your guests at that party will also give a party, and guess what? You’re invited. And then the next week another person who was at your original party will give an elaborate feast, and guess what? You’re invited to that too.



Then after all your original guests have given a dinner party and invited you and you got a tenfold return for your original party, you give another dinner party, and the whole round starts over again. You only gave one party, but you enjoyed ten more in return. And when that’s over, you give another one, and it starts all over again.



What is a dinner party like? First of all, it is elaborate, exquisite food, worldly food, things that a simple, humble monk has renounced to live for God alone. Not only that, but there will be alcoholic beverages drunk throughout the evening, perhaps into the wee hours of the morning before it finally breaks up. Do you think you’ll be able to get up at three in the morning for your morning meditation, prayer, and early morning Mass? I don’t think so.



How long will it take you to physically, mentally, and spiritually recover from a dinner party? You won’t be recovered the next morning, and maybe even the whole next day will be basically lost, because you got up late so that your whole schedule is thrown off. You’ll probably also feel stuffed and have a hangover. Well, if you’re on an endless dinner party circuit and this happens every week, it will overflow and influence your whole attitude and lifestyle, and you’ll become a dinner party person.



So, what does Jesus say? He says, “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 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).



Jesus wants us to avoid this endless dinner party circuit lifestyle with heavy drinking, rich unhealthy but tasty food, and little sleep with late rising the next morning. This is not to be the life of his followers. If you insist that you must give a dinner party, invite the poor who will not return the invitation, and you will be doing them a real service, because they need nourishing food and are too poor to buy it. So, God will reward you for your kindness in supplying the poor with healthy, nourishing food.



Some Christians open soup kitchens to feed the poor. Some give a banquet in their home or at a public park for the poor and cook and serve healthy food for free. The poor cannot pay you back or even pay for the food you give them. If your desire is focused on dinner parties, do it that way.



In this way you will be renouncing worldliness and a worldly lifestyle, as St. John says, “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 must love the world to save the world from its sinfulness by preaching Christ to it. But we must not love the world in the sense of seeking its unnecessary worldly pleasures. We are rather to live a simple, humble, lowly, faithful life, serving the Lord, not our own pleasures.

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