In this reading Jesus uses the situation to teach the right attitude to have as a guest and as a host, demonstrating his teaching through his own everyday behaviour. Fr Adrian Graffy reflects.
1 On a sabbath day Jesus had gone for a meal to the house of one of the leading Pharisees; and they watched him closely. 7 He then told the guests a parable, because he had noticed how they picked the places of honour. He said this, 8 ‘When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take your seat in the place of honour. A more distinguished person than you may have been invited, 9 and the person who invited you both may come and say, “Give up your place to this man.” And then, to your embarrassment, you would have to go and take the lowest place. 10 No; when you are a guest , make your way to the lowest place and sit there, so that, when your host comes, he may say, “My friend, move up higher.” In that way, everyone with you at the table will see you honoured. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’
12 Then he said to his host, ‘When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not ask your friends, brothers, relations or rich neighbours, for fear they repay your courtesy by inviting you in return. 13 No; when you have a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; 14 that they cannot pay you back means that you are fortunate, because repayment will be made to you when the virtuous rise again.’
Other readings: Ecclesiasticus 3:17-20,28-29 Psalm 67 (68) Hebrews 12:18-19,22-24
This gospel illustrates how Jesus, as an astute teacher, used the situations in which he found himself to challenge people. In this case his teaching is about the right attitude to have as a guest, and as a host. It is not surprising that the Old Testament reading chosen to reflect the gospel is from the Book of Ecclesiasticus, one of the so-called Wisdom books. These books do not hesitate to give direct advice about the way to behave properly. The reading from Ecclesiasticus today is about humility.
Jesus takes up the traditions of the Jewish teachers of wisdom. So what is new about his teaching here? He brings with him the traditional teaching and confirms it, but he also lives it, not simply by his own everyday behaviour, but by going to the lowest place in accepting his martyrdom on the cross. These apparently mundane teachings, which are set during his journey to Jerusalem to face death, remind us of his willingness to be the servant of all and to give up his life. As he makes his way to Jerusalem the servant Jesus teaches us how to be truly servants, and the humble Jesus teaches us how to be truly humble. For the Christian there is nothing too mundane, no activity which cannot benefit from the light of faith. For the Christian there is no person who does not deserve the gift of our hospitality, the gift of our love.
Do I endeavour to shed the light of faith on all my actions and decisions?
Do I strive for true humility in my attitudes and behaviour?
Let us pray for a heart that is welcoming towards those who are rejected and ill-treated.
Let us pray that despite our weakness we may one day take our place at the wedding feast of God.
Rev Dr Adrian Graffy is a member of the Vatican Commission that takes a lead in Bible scholarship, interpretation and promotion in the Catholic Church.
Rev Dr Graffy said of his five-year appointment by Pope Francis in 2014: “It is an honour to be nominated by Pope Francis as a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. I feel humbled and very much look forward to being of service to His Holiness and the Church.”
He added: “A great deal has been achieved in England and Wales in recent years by many co-workers to advance Biblical scholarship and the provision of easy-to-use resources. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them and the Bishops’ Conference Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis for their efforts to promote understanding and love of the Bible, particularly through the publication of the teaching documents, The Gift of Scripture and the study guide to Verbum Domini, The Word of the Lord.”
Rev Dr Graffy received his doctorate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome in 1983. He taught for over 20 years in St John’s Seminary in Wonersh, and is Chair of the National Scripture Working Group, which is an instrument of the Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Fr Graffy is a past director of Brentwood’s Commission for Evangelisation and Formation and parish priest of Christ the Eternal High Priest in Gidea Park, Essex. Among his publications are the Gospel of Mark and the Letter to the Romans (Alive Publishing).
Listen to BBC Essex interview with Fr Adrian Graffy