“The Rude Guest” (Luke 14:1, 7-14) by Fr. Joel Sulse, OFM

…to enrich one’s self and not to think of others is also a crime that we should remind ourselves of every now and then. As Pope Francis said: “Mess yourself up for God!”

The gospel reading this Sunday is part of the critical 14th Chapter, where the action and the setting is mostly set on the Sabbath in the house of a leading Pharisee. The first verse sets the tone… they were watching Jesus closely. Hence, he was invited as a guest. But what type of a guest is he? Verse 3 of this account tells us that he challenged the lawyers and the Pharisees; he lambasted without hesitation those who would like to take the first seats (v.7); and even gave instructions to the host on whom to invite in the next meals (vs. 12-14). One writer says that by any standard, he can be considered as a rude guest.

The thousands of people who attended the “picnic” last Monday in Luneta, including ourselves in the parish, can be considered also rude guests like Jesus. We brought along with us, without hesitation, our firm stand about the issue. We aired out with our presence that enough is enough of the corruption happening in our country, and enough of the greed of those who participated in the horrific crime against our nation and our people. Our presence there is like that of Jesus reminding the Scribes and the Pharisees, but in our case reminding our politicians, to stop the whitewashed tomb prominence incessantly present in our economic, political and cultural systems.

Again, the setting in our gospel is a banquet. This has been part of our life, and is very important. Eating has been an essential element of our existence as human persons. Thus, if one is invited to an occasion, this means that the guest is important, legitimized by his being included in the guest list with a seat assignment. This is the spirituality behind the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Everyone is important in God’s eyes. Everyone has a seat, has a place in the holy banquet of the Lord. It is the only type of banquet where people, standing because the church has run out of pews, are given importance through the holy communion given them. Luke highlighted this meal narrative to give importance to the anticipated role of God inviting everyone “to eat in His Kingdom”. It is in this context that His table becomes an eschatological banquet, where everyone will have his fill, and will always enjoy a sumptuous meal.

There are four incidents that occur in this meal account: (1) the healing of the man with dropsy; (2) the finding of the Council of the Pharisee finding a place in a table; (3) Jesus’ suggestion whom to invite in the meal; and (4) the great dinner parable. Evident however in these incidents is the presence of God who heals, admonishes, exhorts and invites and assures hope to those who are willing to follow his path and his way of life. Jesus may sound like a rude guest but it is the only way to shake a system at hand, whose players are up in an active arena where everyone has a seat to enjoy a very important encounter.

The rude guest therefore has a purpose. It is into this realm of purpose that Jesus opens our minds and hearts into the real meaning of hospitality. That this value is not honorable alone to those who have the capacity to repay goodness with the same chance of inviting them to their future banquets as well. Rather to offer an opportunity to those who have no capacity to repay another person’s good deeds. The Rude Guest urges therefore a type of a social system without reciprocity! What is in the heart of this Guest? It is equality, justice and integrity. These, basically are the reasons why we invited ourselves to the “picnic” in Luneta last Monday. If all the people there will just continue to keep that beautiful and valuable attitude, then we can be like Jesus again, who challenges the social structure leading others to develop a transformative spirit that will bring about change in their lives.

Why did Jesus suggest that the poor, the blind, the crippled and the lame be invited to the banquet? Because they belong to the Kingdom of God! So if we displace them, we would owe God and them the remuneration that they justly should receive. It is like saying, “If we will not do something about the unjust system happening in our times, including that of the Pork Barrel issue, then we have to account for it before God so let us do something while it is not too late yet.”

Therefore, to enrich one’s self and not to think of others is also a crime that we should remind ourselves of every now and then. As Pope Francis said: “Mess yourself up for God!”

as published on September 1, 2013, Parish Bulletin
About Fr. Joel and his reflections