• Sirach 3:7-18, 20, 28-29 • Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24a • Luke 14:1, 7-14 • 22 Ordinary C ’13 •
Scripture Readings: Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Print PDF: Weekly Homily 09.01.2013
Meals are about more than food and eating. Meals are about relationships. That is why there are diverse cultures of table etiquette. Some folks use fingers to eat from a common bowl. We use forks, knives and spoons. While all table etiquette is arbitrary it is significant for our table manners reflect and express our reverence and respect for the others with whom we are sharing.
Meals in antiquity communicated proper social relationships. There was a defined social pecking order and that pecking order determined who was to be excluded from or included in. People of higher social status would never dine with or invite people of lower social status into their homes.
In his gospel, Luke calls our attention to ten specific meals in which Jesus partakes. This meal took place on a Sabbath in the home of a “prominent Pharisee.” We know the written gospels typically portray “Pharisees” in a negative light. So it is significant that Jesus was invited to this particular meal.
Apparently this “prominent Pharisee” was honoring Jesus and publicly recognizing him as a social equal. That is significant, but perhaps the more significant point is about Jesus himself. The attitudes and social behavior of Jesus were inclusive. He shared life with all people regardless of their social standing. He is both model and mentor of what we are called to be.
As we probe this gospel we can go further and find another element for us to consider. I think it is even more significant than table etiquette or the role of the Pharisee.
In the gospel portrayals of Jesus, we see a man who never considers himself the center of the universe. He always is centered either on that Gracious Mystery he named “Father,” or on other people. We hear that expressed so strongly in this text.
Some professions are more prone than others to embrace the illusion that self is the center of the universe. It is a magnetic illusion. You remember the name General George Armstrong Custer. Apparently he experienced that illusion. Like military leaders of every nation and era, he was convinced he and the soldiers under his command were the center of the universe. Prior to the battle of the Little Big Hole, insisting he share the dangers facing his regiment, he reportedly said, “There are not enough Indians in the world to defeat the Seventh Calvary.” They proved him wrong. He and his troops were annihilated in that battle.
The Eucharist we are preparing to celebrate today is a meal with its own unique form of table etiquette. It also is a clear reminder, “I am not the center of the universe.”
All meals are about relationships. Eucharist is uniquely so!
“The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ?
The loaf that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.”
At this Table one loaf of bread is shared. Breaking and sharing the common loaf is to share in Christ and to be one with all who share it. You know from your experience the common loaf is a metaphor of this community — the Living Body of Christ. As the grains, we too are gathered, transformed, united in and with Christ. That is why Luke’s Jesus directs the Pharisee to extend his invitation list beyond the privileged elite.
The new Bishop of Rome calls us to the very heart of the gospel. He has awakened hope among us that the “aggiornamento” initiated by John XXIII, and set before us as a challenge by the Second Vatican Council, will now continue. “Aggiornamento” means “spiritual renewal.” Francis consistently reminds us we are called to serve and to care for the poor. In doing so we are true and faithful to the deepest truth of who and what we are — the Living Body of Christ.