JESUS MAFA. The poor invited to the feast, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=48397 [retrieved August 25, 2022]. Original source: http://www.librairie-emmanuel.fr (contact page: https://www.librairie-emmanuel.fr/contact).

RCL Year C Proper 17 (Alternate Readings)
Sirach 10:12-18, Psalm 112, Hebrews 13:1-8 and 15-16, Saint Luke 14:1 and 7-14

Let me try this out on you. You became a Christian because your parents presented you for Holy Baptism. Or, because you have some good feelings about Jesus—he puts himself in second place, endures the cross, so that sinners might be forgiven. But whether you chose Christianity, or others chose Christianity for you, you have stuck it out, you continue to come to church, because somewhere in the Scriptures or the Sacraments, you believe that you can find the meaning of life. What is mysterious about life can be made understandable once you get the hang of Christianity.

If any of this speaks to your experience, today may be a day you have longed to see. For I believe that Jesus comes quite close to letting a very big cat out of a large but tightly bound bag.

The scene he sets in the little parable in the Gospel about a wedding banquet and the address he makes to his host at a sabbath meal say a lot. The scene concerns a fictional wedding banquet to which we, any one of us, might be invited. The word from Jesus to us is, “do not sit down at the place of honor”[1] lest your host bump you from that place and give it to a more distinguished person. The scene at the banquet concerns more than advice about where to sit at parties.

The story Jesus tells makes a strong beginning to an answer to the question of the meaning of life. There are places in life where we should sit, and there are places where we should not sit. The First Lesson is on to this when it begins, “The beginning of human pride is to forsake the Lord; the heart has withdrawn from its Maker.”[2] The meaning of life involves staying near God. The meaning of life involves a right relationship with our maker. The right relationship with our maker is that of a creature to its creator. It is to recognize that all we are, all we have, and all we can ever be, have come and are coming from a loving and merciful creator. As we say in Psalm 95, “we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.”[3] We are free to obey or to disobey the “Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things,”[4] as we prayed in the Collect.

When we disobey, or rebel, or refuse to be a creature, we sin. And, the act of sinning traditionally is described as taking the place of God. Today’s Gospel, the fictional scene at a wedding, opens all of this up. We sin when we sit in God’s place, when we exchange the place of a creature for the place of the creator. The fourth question in the Catechism is: “Why do we not use our freedom as we should?”[5] And the answer is: “Because we rebel against God, and we put ourselves in the place of God.”[6] As a gloss on this Gospel, and as a kind of warning, do we not read in the First Epistle of Saint Peter, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time.”[7]

In the Gospel today, Jesus does not stop with putting into their rightful place “the guests” who “chose the places of honor.”[8] He has a word for his host, a Pharisee. The word isn’t about the Law of Moses or the Sabbath. It is about what creatures who are in a right relationship with their creator do. “But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”[9] Creatures in a right relationship with their creator help unfortunate creatures, those who need help through no fault of their own. Creatures in a right relationship with their creator love God and love their neighbor. As Jesus said, “[o]n these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”[10] I say, this Gospel has let a very big cat out of the bag.


[1] Saint Luke 14:8.

[2] Sirach 10:12.

[3] Psalm 95:7.

[4] BCP, page 233.

[5] BCP, page 845.

[6] Ibid.

[7] I Peter 5:6.

[8] Saint Luke 14:7.

[9] Saint Luke 14:13-14.

[10] Saint Matthew 22:40. KJV.