CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 23 September 2017

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Positions of power in the Church

In today’s passage, we are in the house of a Pharisee at the end of the liturgy in the synagogue, and Jesus is one of the guests. In a Jewish banquet, a rigid etiquette is observed, as there are hierarchies to be respected. 

Seats are allocated carefully: at the centre are the people of honour who were invited to sit beside the host. At the same time, Jesus notices the awkward attitudes, embarrasment and clumsiness of people who were asked to take lower seats. 

Then he introduces a parable. “Whenever you are invited, go rather to the lowest seat, so that your host may come and say to you: friend, you must come up higher. And this will be a great honour for you in the presence of all the other guests.”

It is strange that he would condescend to suggest so mean a trick in order to be successful in public, and to be vain. The advice is a repetition from Proverbs (25:6-7). But on Jesus’ lips, its purpose is not to teach a tactic for social success.

A closer observation of the text makes us think that the supper of Jesus on Palestinian land is an artificial setting.

Luke uses it to put in the mouth of the Lord a lesson to the Christians of his communities where, often, the presbyters, the heads of the various ministries, let themselves be taken in by the desire to occupy the first places

It is the eternal problem of the Church: everyone should serve, but, in practice, there is always someone who aspires to honourary titles, wants to excel, swells with pride and comes to transform even the Eucharist, an occasion for self-celebration. Here’s the cancer that destroys our communities!

 At the last supper, Jesus wanted the message to stay etched in the minds of the disciples. 

He washed their feet to set an example. Jesus wants to reverse the positions, to overturn the scale of values. Only those who choose, as he did, the place of the servant, will be exalted during the only banquet that counts, that of the kingdom of God.

He advises the disciples who act like Pharisees in the Church, who discriminate against people to begin a new banquet wherein the four categories of good people give way to the other four: “When you give a feast invite instead the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind.”

The crippled, the blind and the lame were not allowed into the temple of the Lord (Leviticus 21:18). 

Their condition was a clear sign of their sin and the assembly of the Israelites was to be composed of people of integrity, perfect, pure, flawless the four categories of good people.

Jesus announces that he has come to begin a new feast, a banquet where the excluded, the people rejected by everyone become the first guests, those for whom the seats of honour are reserved.

 

 

Father Fernando Armellini SCJ    
Claretian Publications
https://sundaycommentaries.wordpress.com