Lest we think that today’s Gospel passage is a primer on how to host a dinner party, we need to remember that the image of the banquet—particularly in Luke’s Gospel—is a primary way Jesus illustrates the reign of God. Meals of all sorts, from the most commonplace to the most festive banquet, were a social phenomenon that his listeners understood. Being at table was an important means of communication for them. This is why Jesus got in so much trouble for dining with sinners: his critics wouldn’t dine with them, believing they would never dine at the banquet set by God Almighty. Today we still are uncomfortable being at a meal table with those we do not like or of whom we do not approve. So Jesus used table images to upend many of the expectations about order and place cards that were common in his day. Such is the upended table he describes today, where the puffed-up guest gets deflated, where the guest who is seated quietly at the foot of the table is brought to the place of honor by none other than the host himself.
To get ready for the upending we’ll experience at the heavenly banquet, Jesus tells us to use the tables of our daily living. We ought not invite those we know or are related to; they may repay us and therefore we will not actually have extended any hospitality at all. Rather, look to those who cannot repay the hospitality. Issue the invitation to anyone who does not have the means to return one; bring all who are not able to get to the table by themselves. Be their nourishment, be their strength. Then you will join the feasting of the resurrection of the righteous. And what a gathering the Letter to the Hebrews describes! Infinite angels partaking in the festivities of the heavenly Jerusalem, all who have become the firstborn to heaven in Christ their first fruit assembled there, all the rejoicing spirits of the just ones, now made perfect, joined with Jesus. Then our joy will not be in the feasting or our particular place at the table, but in our oneness in the covenant of eternal life won for us by the blood of Christ.
Blessings, Fr. Sergio Lopez