In the gospel Our Divine Lord tells us that when we give a dinner party or invite people over for a meal, we shouldn’t invite our relatives and friends, but rather the street people and any needy folks we can find.
Now, we can’t always take Our Lord literally. He tells us elsewhere that when we are being generous, we shouldn’t let our left hand know what our right hand is doing. To begin with, our hands don’t know things; it is the mind that knows. But our two hands are part of our one person, and we can’t do anything with a part of the body that the rest of us doesn’t know about. Human consciousness just doesn’t work that way. But what Our Lord is saying is: keep your good works secret as much as you can, lest you begin doing good just for the publicity of it and the good opinion of others.
So, let’s get back to the meals in our home. Can we take the Lord literally when he tells us to bring the poor, the lame, the blind, the street people into our homes? By doing so, we might endanger ourselves, our loved ones, our home and our possessions. And we would certainly destroy our social life if we never invited our relatives and friends over, but rather entertained the drug addicts, the alcoholics, and the mentally ill whom we found on skid row.
But then Our Lord comes to the punch line of his parable: “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.” It’s not a case of “either … or” but rather “both … and.” Invite those of your family and your social circle to your home, but also do whatever you can to provide for the neediest among us.
When Archbishop Philip Hannan was the ordinary of New Orleans, he always celebrated his Christmas Masses at the cathedral. Then, he would go to a soup kitchen operated by the Saint Vincent de Paul Society in one of the skid row sections of the city. He would put on an apron and then join the other volunteer workers behind the steam tables in distributing food to the people who came in for their Christmas dinner. I’m sure many of them didn’t realize that the man in black with the Roman collar and the apron on, behind the steam table, was the highest ranking clergyman in the city. All he was to them was the guy who carefully put a portion of turkey or dressing or cherry pie on their plates, smiled at them, and wished them a Merry Christmas. They couldn’t repay him. And so, divine justice and goodness being what it is, when he gets to heaven, the book of life will reveal how many poor people he served on all those Christmases. Who knows? It may be that some of those people whom he fed on a Christmas day back in the 70s and 80s will be there to welcome him. They won’t be poor any more, and he won’t need to give them anything. They can just enjoy the eternal banquet forever where, according to the old hymn, “God and man at table are sat down.” Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This Message was composed some years ago.