SUNDAY’S READINGS | August 28, 2022
On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the Sabbath, they were watching him closely” (Luke 14:1). Because verses 2-6 are omitted from the gospel reading, we may miss part of why Jesus is being watched. “Just then, in front of him, there was a man who had dropsy” (Luke 14:2). Sensing tension about healing on the Sabbath, Jesus asks the lawyers and the Pharisees, “Is it lawful to cure on the Sabbath, or not?” (Luke 14:3). After healing the man, Jesus further probes his observers: “If one of you has a child or an ox that has fallen into a well, will you not immediately pull it out on a Sabbath day?” (Luke 14:5). By their silence they essentially agree that they too would rescue their child or ox on the sacred day of rest. We hear an unspoken question hidden in the cure. “If it not lawful then to rescue or heal any man or woman or child on the Sabbath?” In Christ, there is but one human family. The work of healing, then, is always allowed!
Jesus is being watched, and he is watching. “He noticed how the guests chose the places of honor.” Presuming to know their place and position, the guests, in hasty and imprudent confidence, chose the best places, not considering the possibility that a person of higher status may yet arrive, thus requiring that they give away their seat and take a lower place. Such a “disgrace” is the direct result of pride. “For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 14:11). When arriving as a guest at another person’s home, we do well to pause, to wait, and to look for direction from the host. We are not to assert ourselves but to respond to the instructions of the host. And who, in this story, is the host, other than the Lord God? God invites, and we come, but we wait in humility. The God who calls will assign a place of purpose and dignity to all.
Behold what we are learning: We may always heal. We may and should always wait upon the Lord.
The dinner party occasions a third teaching. “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid” (Luke 14:12). A party with family and friends is hardly wrong. Still, in some sense, it is too limited in scope, lacking what Jesus elsewhere calls “credit.” “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? … If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? … If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you?” (Luke 6:32-34). Try something different, Jesus suggests. Expand your social circle to include those from whom you expect nothing in return. “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” (Luke 14:13-14).
Attending a recent party at the group home where my daughter lives, I and others provided food, beverages, desserts, and entertainment for the residents. The residents are incapable of reciprocating the gesture. In that sense, they “cannot repay.” And yet they have repaid a thousandfold by their love and goodness.
Be a healing person, a humble person, a person of great and wide love.
Look It Up: Ecclesiasticus 10:14-17
Think About It: When I am weak, then I am strong.