Sunday, September 02, 2007

Cripples for dinner?

With Blessed Teresa of Calcutta in mind, today's Gospel is deceptively easy in the beginning and surprisingly hard at the finish:

On a sabbath Jesus went to dine
at the home of one of the leading Pharisees,
and the people there were observing him carefully.

He told a parable to those who had been invited,
noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table.
“When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet,
do not recline at table in the place of honor.
A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him,
and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say,
‘Give your place to this man,’
and then you would proceed with embarrassment
to take the lowest place.
Rather, when you are invited,
go and take the lowest place
so that when the host comes to you he may say,
‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’
Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table.
For every one who exalts himself will be humbled,
but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Then 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 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.”

As I attain rank (mostly by virtue of seniority) in my profession, I have the worry of teaching others their jobs but I also have the privilege of sending them to do stuff to make my work life easier. I can actually get away with sending people to pick up my work from the printer, or make copies, or run and get me a reference document, or do icky little research or organization tasks to save me time. I've gotten awfully used to it, and don't quail as much as I used to; no explanations or apologies, just "go get me....please."

So I have the new occasion for sin of feeling pretty darn nice when I do a little running for a staffer when they're busy.

As my mother and aunts and uncles age, I and my cousins do a lot of door-holding and food-getting and ride-giving and "while I'm here, why don't I take out your garbage and change the light bulb and run stuff to the attic." They get first crack at the shrimp and the champagne and, after the little ones, even the piece of cake with the rose on it. It's very natural, because their age and infirmities, and our debt of life to them, makes it obvious and even kind of an honor (we won't have them forever).

So I go up high at work, and go down low in the family. In my self-conceit, I am tempted to think they balance. I know that's not for me to say, that I efface myself enough everywhere. Shoot.

About that second part, inviting the lame, the crippled, the poor: I can't even get a model of that in my mind. Be nice to the irritating woman who comes to an event at church that I volunteer for? Okay. Listen to the frighteningly immoral activities engaged in over the weekend by one of our more mistaken admin staff and seize upon the parts I can praise? Probably. But I think I'm totally blind to opportunity to give without ANY chance of return, not even of self-satisfaction. Someone explain it to me please.


kc bob said...

Inviting people who cannot 'invite me back' falls outside the range of the people that I associate with ... perhaps I should change my associations ... at least some of them :)

Roz said...

But I think I'm totally blind to opportunity to give without ANY chance of return, not even of self-satisfaction.

I'm not sure Jesus asks us for that, given, as he is, to understanding our frame and remembering that we are dust. He just asks us to give to people from whom we hold no hope of reciprocation.

I'm not saying it's easy. And only God's help will keep the self-satisfaction from being our primary motivation. But maybe all we can do is obey the best we can, asking Jesus to purify our motives (which are sure trashy, but they're all we have until you change us, so please for heavens sake don't leave me sitting here in the swamp of self-interest, okay Lord? It stinks in here).

spoildchld said...

I'm convinced it's very very hard to live as Jesus would every second of the day. But that's all I can try to do..the best with each second, each moment. It's a lot of work. But, with God's grace I accept the challenge. The answer for me is to be very simple about it and to never never focus on me. "Am I doing enough? Am I using my gift to the best of my ability? Should I reach out to this one or that? " Those sentences all have the word I in them. For me the challenge is living every second of the day with God. It's all about Him.
ps: read your comment on my blog. Thanks for responding.



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