Last Sunday, we heard Jesus teach his disciples that everyone is invited to the banquet in the kingdom of God. In today’s Gospel, he tells us who we should invite to our own meals. Not our family or friends, and not those who are rich or influential, whose friendship might be a benefit to us. Instead, Jesus says, we should invite the people on the edges – the poor and the disabled.
Jesus lived in a society where people were very conscious of their social status. The guests at a formal meal would be seated in order of their importance. Anyone with a disability or serious illness would not even be invited to the table – they were believed to be cursed by God. Jesus rejects that way of thinking altogether. Not only is everyone invited to the meal in God’s kingdom, but the poor and the sick have a place of honour. The Letter to the Hebrews tells us that, in the kingdom of heaven, everyone is a ‘first-born’ and a citizen – everyone has their place at the table. What a contrast with our earthly societies, divided as they are by wealth and privilege.
Jesus himself ended his earthly life as the ultimate outsider, driven out of the city and crucified. As his disciples, we are called to follow his example and take the lowest place. Who do we not want to find sitting next to us at the table?