You might want to think twice before inviting Jesus for a meal. He is never afraid to challenge his host and offer a demanding lesson.
One example is the Gospel story we heard two weeks ago. Jesus tells his dinner host, one of the leading Pharisees, not to invite friends or relatives or wealthy neighbors when hosting a banquet, but rather, “the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind”—those who cannot repay (Luke 14:12-14).
In yesterday’s Gospel, we learn that Jesus practices what he preaches. The Pharisees and scribes complain about Jesus, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:2).
In the first century—as well as today—one’s company at meals and banquets says a lot about who we are and what we value most. Jesus repeatedly used table fellowship as a way to manifest God’s kin-dom: the wedding feast at Cana, the feeding of the multitudes, inviting himself to the house of Zacchaeus, receiving the anointing of a woman. In this way, Jesus embraced those who were considered sinners and outcasts and affirmed their belovedness in God’s eyes.
Who do we invite to our meals and banquets, and what does it say about us?
At the Jesuit high school where I teach and minister, every first-year student spends a half day at St. Anthony’s Foundation in San Francisco, a place that welcomes over 1,200 people for lunch each day. St. Anthony’s is intentional in saying they have a “dining room,” not a “soup kitchen,” and the people who come for lunch are honored “guests.” Our students dine with the guests and listen to their stories. In the end, it’s not about any “service” we provide, but the gift of each person we encounter. It is the Gospel.
Luke Hansen is a campus minister and religious studies teacher at St. Ignatius College Preparatory in San Francisco. He has worked extensively with prisoners as a teacher, minister, and advocate. A native of Wisconsin, Luke enjoys running, playing basketball, and cheering for his favorite sports teams.