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Monday of the Thirty-First Week in Ordinary Time
On a Sabbath Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees. He said to the host who invited him, “When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or sisters or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
Opening Prayer: Come, Lord Jesus, come! I invite you into my life. I ask you to draw me into yours. Thank you for coming to save me! Jesus, I love you.
- Encounter: Encounters with God are the greatest moments in a person’s life. We rejoice over the unexpected spark of recognition in which our soul meets its Creator and realizes it is seen, known, and loved. If nourished, this spark becomes a flaming fire of love which lights, warms, and purifies the soul. In this Gospel passage, Jesus was teaching the Pharisee by speaking many words that encourage this encounter with the living God– Sabbath, dine, home, host, invite, hold, banquet–words that call to mind the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
- Invite: From the moment that Abraham unknowingly extended hospitality to God who appeared to him as “three men” at the entrance of his tent (Genesis 1-5), hospitality has been important to the culture of the people of God. In addition to inviting guests to a Sabbath meal, a wedding banquet, or any lunch or dinner, a number of places were also set for strangers who may appear as the Lord did to Abraham. By saying, “When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or sisters or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment,” Jesus was reminding the Pharisee that an important part of their Jewish heritage was the friendly welcome of strangers. This is also true for Christians today. “Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ, for he is going to say: I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matthew. 25:35).
- Blessed: “Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.” We know from Jesus that “the poor will always be with us” (Matthew 26:11), and our obligation as Catholics is to serve them. However, this command of Jesus’ may not necessarily require volunteering at a soup kitchen (although that’s very admirable). As Mother Teresa said, “There’s two kinds of poverty. We have the poverty of material; for example, in some places like in India, Ethiopia, and other places, where the people are hungry for a loaf of bread—real hunger. But there is a much deeper, much greater hunger; and that is the hunger for love, and that terrible loneliness and being unwanted, unloved—being abandoned by everybody.” To serve these individuals requires prayerful discernment and an open and willing heart. We are to extend ourselves in hospitality not for earthly reward but for treasures in Heaven (Matthew 6:20). Jesus tells us, “For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
Conversing with Christ: Lord, you did not come to condemn me. You came to give me life in abundance, and I am to share your life with others, especially with the poor. Help me to heed your call and direct my energies toward the apostolic work you have laid out for me so that I may fulfill your will and bring glory to your name.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will invite a person you place in my path to an event, or to a work, school, or social function, and accompany him or her during it.
For Further Reflection: The Catholic Hospitality Training Institute.
Nan Balfour is a wife, mother, and grandmother. She volunteers as a writer and speaker for Pilgrim Center of Hope, a Catholic evangelization ministry that answers Christ’s call by guiding people to encounter him so as to live in hope as pilgrims in daily life.