In the Gospel passage when Jesus goes to dine at the house of the Pharisee, he notices how all the other guests have secured their own placement at the dinner. The atmosphere of the evening is a bit tense, not relaxed. Everyone is scrutinizing this young preacher. What will he do? What will he say? How will he behave? Jesus decides not to disappoint them.
He seems to like to tell wedding stories. They’re great images of the world, of life and of God’s invitation to take a proper part in the life of His own kingdom; so, He tells them a story about attending a wedding. He says that it’s good to conduct ourselves in this world with humility and not march up to the front, as if it is our due. That is the gist of the story.
In reality, we’re all invited to a type of wedding banquet, and not just some of us. We all have a seat at the table. But, demanding or expecting special treatment is no way to behave.
Jesus then goes on to tell a second story, about the underprivileged and poor, and of how they never get invitations to a wedding, never get invited to share in life’s bounty.
During the evening’s dinner party, Jesus has seen clearly how we go wrong. First, in seating people, we like to put them in an order of importance and to make sure that the privileges we have garnered for ourselves do not get squandered on others. Then there are some people whom we consider not deserving to be at the party of life at all. But, the Lord is saying to us, you have all this wealth and all this food, and you forget about those who are penniless and starving. Jesus doesn’t despise our parties, those gatherings of family and friends, which are the real joy of our lives. They are lovely and important occasions. But, He’s telling us, in our good fortune, to remember those who are hungry and poor.
Along these lines, there is a story from tenth-century Ireland, when there were as many as 150 kings and local chieftains, who ruled their own small territories. Brian Boru was to become the last great High King of Ireland, but in his early days, while he was still a local chieftain, a story is told of him that showed his self-confidence and respect for others.
On one of his journeys, Brian came to visit another local king. When it was time to dine, one of Brian’s entourage came to him in great agitation. Brian asked the man what’s the matter. “My Lord,” said his servant, “these people have insulted you. They’ve given you a lesser place at their table, when they should have seated you at the head.” Smiling and, turning to him, he said, “Don’t be distressed, for wherever Brian Boru sits is the head of the table!”
In this little incident we see a man who is quietly confident of his own place in the world, a man who doesn’t need the adulation or deference of others to know his own worth. His dignity resides in himself. He doesn’t need others to constantly tell him how great he is. Social status comes from our inner virtue, not from outward marks of worldly glory .
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI once spoke of “the need to rediscover the journey of faith so as to shed clearly light on the joy and renewed enthusiasm of the encounter with Christ.” Unfortunately, not everyone shares in our joy and enthusiasm of the encounter with Christ. You may have heard the statistic that the second-largest religious group in the United States is non-practicing Catholics. I am sure that many of us know personally the people and stories behind these numbers. They are our sisters and brothers, our cousins and our friends, our sons and daughters, our neighbors and co-workers. What can we say to reignite in them the fire of faith, to call them back to the promises made and received in Baptism? What is Christ inspiring us to do to proclaim the faith anew to these lost sheep? These questions lie at the heart of the task of which Pope Benedict wrote: “To rediscover the content of the faith that is professed, celebrated, lived, and prayed, and to reflect on the act of faith, is a task that every believer must make his own” (Porta Fidei, 9). To this end, I would like to propose a three-fold plan.
First, we must be grateful for the faith we have received, for our encounter with the Lord. Families should strive to make their homes places where the family prays together, reads the Scriptures together, and is nourished together at Sunday Mass. Families should strive to allow their faith to influence everything they do, rather than reserving their faith only for an hour or so on Sunday. Thus, the Knights of Columbus promote the family as a “domestic church,” the family being a little community of believers that works and prays together.
Second, we must endeavor to understand all the more clearly the Faith we profess. If a friend, family member or co-worker asks us a question about Catholicism, can we provide an adequate – and correct – answer? The Knights provide materials for us to able to do so.
Third, we must share our faith, not only with our family and friends, but with co-workers and everyone we meet. As Pope Benedict reminded us, “Confessing with the lips indicates, in turn, that faith implies public testimony and commitment” (Porta Fidei, 10). Through this testimony and commitment, we invite others into a relationship with the God who is both three and one. This three-fold plan is the way of discipleship and through it we learn to follow Jesus Christ, to live ever more fully the grace of Baptism. As we approach Christ in Holy Communion at every Mass, let our gathering around the altar and celebration of the Eucharist always fill us with an awareness of the grace and peace that comes to us from God our Father, through the Lord Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit.