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The Twenty-second Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

The Banquet of the Kingdom of God 

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...this is the one parable Catholics take literally right? Because when we go to a Catholic church, no one wants to sit in the front pew. Have you ever noticed that? It’s very, very fascinating. Even if there’s only 8 people in church, they’re going to get 6 or 8 aisles back away from the altar. And maybe that’s because we’ve all (you know) somehow imbibed this parable on a very deep, deep level. Go to the back pew. I’m a Catholic. I’m following Jesus’ teaching in Luke 14.

In any case, that’s not what people would do normally. Normally there was a pecking order (a social pecking order) and (you know), whether it be maybe the priests or the scribes, or maybe if you remember the party of Herod (like a Herodian), if you’re in the upper echelon of society, you take the highest spot, not the lowest. Jesus flips that. That’s the twist. “Take the lowest seat.” And when you do that, what will happen is the host will come and he will say, you friend, go up higher and then you will be honored in the presence of all as opposed to being shamed in the presence of all. Now, this isn’t just a nice piece of ethical advice about how to act at a banquet. As you know, Jesus’ parables take earthly realities, but they’re always about heavenly realities. They’re always pointing forward to the nature of the kingdom of God. And usually if you want to see the meaning of the parable, you can go to the end. And at the end of the parable it was standard in Ancient Jewish parables for there to be what’s called a nimshal. The best English translation of this that I can think of is “upshot.” So what’s the upshot of the parable? What’s the point, so to speak? Usually you’ll find the point at the end, not always, but usually. And here Jesus says, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Now in the parable Jesus is talking about being humbled or exalted in the context of a banquet or wedding feast, but if you know Jesus’ teachings elsewhere, what will he use a wedding feast as an image of? The image of the kingdom of God.

So for example, in Matthew 22 Jesus actually says, “The kingdom of Heaven is like a wedding feast that a king put on for his son.” So the imagery there is of the joy of salvation, the joy of the world to come. The joy of the kingdom of Heaven is really only comparable to the joy of a wedding feast. So if you’ve ever been to a really great celebration at a wedding, a beautiful holy couple that are united in Holy Matrimony (in the sacrament of marriage) and then you’re celebrating that sacramental union; it’s awesome. It’s amazing. You just feel overcome with joy, filled with joy — at least that is how it should be. Jesus says, well that’s what the kingdom is like, elsewhere. So given those parables elsewhere, what he’s really talking about here is how people should act in the kingdom of God. So if you want to be exalted in the kingdom of God, what do you need to do? You need to act humbly now. You need to cultivate the virtue of humility now so that you seek the lowest place in this world, so that when the banquet of the kingdom comes you’ll be exalted...

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