1. Sirach3:17-20,28-29
Gospel: Luke 14:1,7-14

                     "Preferential option for the vulnerable of the society "

The story is told of a certain girl who was raised in a poor family. The same family had a crippled brother who also suffered from leprosy, it was the task of that girl to take care of her brother who was crippled and suffered from leprosy. This was the everyday routine for her to ensure that her brother is taken care of and well nursed. It was because of such routines, she felt burdened by taking care of the sick brother in the family without a help from other family members as they feared to contract the disease. One day a girl who seemed to be over burdened with that routine thought an idea of running away from the family. There was a congregation of sisters charity who lived few kilometers from the girl's home. Thus the girl having thought for long time, an idea sprung out of her mind to join that particular congregation of sisters. After she had made an application to join the congregation, the request for her was granted to join the congregation of the sisters of charity. She was really overjoyed to hear such a reply. Having been accepted in that congregation, in the course of the training to be a sister, the girl learned that the charism of that congregation was to take care of the crippled as well as those suffered from leprosy. It is under this point she recognized that by running away to take care of her single brother at home, God revealed to her that it was her vocation to serve people in such predicaments. By being in solidarity with the lepers was so complete that she contracted the disease and died at the age of 40 years in serving the poorest and the most abandoned people in the society.

In our readings today, more especially the gospel, we learn that we should give priority to the poor  in the way we administer and dispense our resources. This is what we see in today's gospel reading. Some perhaps may think that today's gospel reading Jesus teaches about table etiquette and good manners in choosing seats when invited to a dinner. However, when we try to read it through the eyes of the early Christians whose assembly was mainly to share in the feast of the Eucharist, we begin to see that there is much more than etiquette involved here. Let us understand that here Jesus is teaching the basic Christian virtues of humility and solidarity with the poor. And he does this in two stages using two parables.

The first parable, on the one invited to the wedding Feast( verses 7-11), is addressed to Christians as those who are invited to the feast of the Lord's supper. Irrespective of social status and importance we come to the Eucharist as brothers and sisters of equal standing before God. This is the only place where employer and employee relationship, master and servant distinctions dissolve and we recognize one another simply as brothers and sisters in the Lord, as together we
call God " Our Father." The Letter of James reports and condemns a situation where Christians " make distinctions" in the Christian assembly: If a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in , and you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, " Have a seat here please," while to the one who is poor you say, " stand there," or, " seat at my feet," have you not made distinctions among yourselves? ( James 2:2-4).

What a lesson do we learn from Jesus' teaching in the gospel today more especially from the parable? Jesus is challenging us to abolish the rich- poor distinction among them and to recognize  and treat one another as brothers and sisters of equal standing before God. " For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."( Luke 14:11).

In the gospel we have also another parable, on the one giving a Great Dinner ( verses 12-14), is addressed to Christians as those who invite others  to the feast of the Lord's supper.

When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind (vv 12-13).

In his second teaching above, Jesus goes beyond leveling out the distinctions and calls for a preferential treatment of the poor and the disabled among us. He really calls for affirmative action. Give the preference to the poor and the handicapped. A chain is only strong at its weakest point. That's why priority of attention is to be given to the weakest link in the chain. It is in the best interest of the entire chain. It is also in the best interest of the Christian community to give priority to the poor and disabled in our distribution of resources.

In our second reading that's from the book of the Hebrews we learn that the writer of the book tries to correct a wrong impression that some people in the church have about Christian worship. Let us understand the message of the reading.

You have not come to something that can be touched, a blazing fire, and darkness, and gloom { that can be seen}, and a tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and a voice{ that can be heard} whose words made the hearers beg that not another word be spoken to them ( Heb 12:18-19)

The verses above tells us about that these observable things were signs of God's presence with His people in the Old covenant worship on Mount Sinai. They can all be perceived by the senses of sight, sound and touch. The grandeur of the worship was measured by its audio, visual and emotional effect. According to the mind of the writer, this is not what we gather for when we assemble for Christian worship.
Nevertheless, when we gather in worship, the preacher then goes on to teach, we participate in a seven- fold spiritual reality.

You have come (1) to Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, (2) to innumerable angels in festal gathering, (3) to the assembly of the firstborn  who are enrolled in heaven[ that is, fellow believers who are alive and worshiping with us], (4) to God the judge of all, (5) to the spirits of the righteous made perfect [ believers who are dead, whose souls are now with God], (6) to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, (7) and to the sprinkled blood [of Christ] that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel ( Heb 12:22-24).

We can understand that what we have come to are spiritual things, as opposed to those things that we have not come to, which are things perceivable by the senses.  To really appreciate and participate meaningfully in Christian worship what we need above all is not eyes or ears or feelings but we need only one thing, that is faith. Secondly, the things we have not come to have to do with things, whereas what we have come to has to do with persons: God, Christ, angels, spirits, and fellow believers. We come not to experience some-thing but to fellowship with some-one: God together with all who belong to Him. Let us also learn that communion is not something we receive into ourselves, communion is something we do with others: fellowship with God, God's angels, and our fellow believers living and dead.

Many times we hear some Christians complaining that they get nothing out of the church service because the singing is dull and the preaching is not good/ boring. Such Christians have to be reminded of one important thing, that is they should bring into church more faith than eyes or ears. The good music and the good preaching we hear, the altar decorations and the flowers we see, these can contribute to our appreciation of the worship, but the vital thing we need to have in our worship is faith.

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Chapisha Maoni