We usually like to associate with up-beat people—folks who can tell a good joke, engage in conversation, give life to the party. Imagine having a party full of crippled, lame and blind people.
Rarely would any of us go out of our way to welcome such an awkward situation. Not that we should be prejudice against those with physical impediments but to invite only the crippled, lame and blind is asking for trouble. Why would Jesus direct us to do such an impractical thing? What good can come out of a room full of needy people? They obviously cannot pay us back. For the most part our friends reciprocate our generosity is some way. One party at our house the next party at their house. The guest list that Jesus recommends have no house—or they have one where we would rather not visit. Poverty is one of the worse forms of violence when folks have no choice but to endure. Poverty can be embraced as a virtue, usually by religious seeking to die to the things of this world. However, we know that there is a great contrast between first world and third world countries. Fellow parishioners involved in Emily’s meals extend a helping hand to over 50 homeless people every day—from their own resources. The ministry is not about making converts, or handing out any literature or making judgment calls—just simply about feeding those who are hungry. There are stories about those who have sought help and gotten off the streets. The ministers learn some of the names and develop a trust level with those who are open. Yet, there are no strings attached. Once in awhile a portable shower is brought, free medical screening, an opportunity to relax together with others—sort of like the banquet that Jesus described. A follow-up to what we’ve heard: “The last shall be first and the first shall be last.” Contrary to the capitalistic mentality. We do everything in our power to be first. No one wants to be last.
From childhood games to adults battling at Wall Street, our goal is to get ahead. In our competitive society the big fish eats the little fish. Unfortunately there is plenty of evidence which demonstrates our desire for capital gain and not much concern for the poor. We have certainly been tested as a country, a state and as a city. We did not invite them but they have come knocking at our door—the poor, the alien, the least desirable.
Banquets are usually the expense of the host. The guests get a free ride. The story Jesus shared is about us. We are the guests and God is the host. However, we are to treat others with the same compassion that He gives us. The majority of people in the world have never been to a banquet and are grateful to have enough to eat. The banquet is also a preview of heaven. The least expected will have places of honor while those who thought their place was secure will be disappointed. All comes down to humility—not taking God’s invitation for granted. We deserve nothing. Everything is gift, especially our salvation. There is no room for jealousy, resentments, or regrets. This moment, this day is the only place where we exists. Every day is born without mistakes. Whatever mistakes we have made can never be undone, only forgiven. Our behavior, our attitude, our generosity can change today. Opportunity to be inclusive rather than discriminatory is ours to embrace. We do not have to look far to find those waiting to be included. Remember the criteria: they cannot pay us back. Whatever shape such a description unfolds for us. Might include members of our family, neighbors or people whom we have never met. In the poor, the crippled, the lame we will find the face of Jesus Christ.
Beans and rice can yield the greatest banquet we have ever given when we are moved by love. Where charity and love prevail there God is ever found.