22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C - 28/8/2022 - Gospel: Luke 14: 1,7-14
Social Status
The field of sociology talks about two kinds of social status: the ascribed status and achieved status; the former is privileged by birth, wealth, position and citizenship; and the latter is achieved by talents or knowledge. Because social status is relative to others, it changes each time a person comes to a new social setting. For example, a teacher holds higher status than students, but equal to her fellow teachers and lower than the head of her department. This social status is needed for social interactions because it dictates how one should behave in public. Failing to observe these public expectations would bring not just shame, but damage one's reputation. Jesus had no trouble accepting the social status when he stated that 'A more distinguished person may have been invited', but rejected the exclusion and bias in its implementation. True honour is not seizing but rather rewarding.

One of the leaders of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have a party at his house. At the party, Jesus showed less interest in food but more in people and their behaviour. He observed that many guests loved to be seated at places of honour, which were prominent seats for everyone to see, and which enjoyed privileged service and better food. Coming to a social party became a show of power and superiority, which Jesus would not ignore. It is not power and superiority, but rather humility and obedience are the way of the kingdom. For Jesus, self -appointed for places of honour in public would cause shame to oneself and trouble to the host. Shame happens when the seat you have chosen, has been allocated to someone else who ranks before you. The host of the party is in trouble because he has no choice but must shame you.

The second problem was inclusiveness. Jesus noticed that all the guests invited were from the inner circle of the elite or rich neighbours. This practice implies that I invite you, you will return the favour in the future. Jesus corrected this favour - mentality. Instead of inviting prominent guests, the host should include others as well. He told the host,

'When you have a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; that they can't repay back means you are fortunate, because repayment will be made to you when the virtuous rise again'. v. 14.

The teaching alludes to the eschatological banquet in God's kingdom. A social party is inclusive and for social purposes. The heavenly banquet is God's gift for everyone. The entry ticket to the heavenly banquet is not about social status, but humility at heart. Those who are humbly before God and love others entered the heavenly banquet. The Lord of hosts expects no favourable return from anyone. Everything we have comes from God and we have nothing worthwhile to repay God's favour. Humility and obedience are all we have to give thanks to God.

Because social status doesn't exist in the heavenly banquet; there will be no shame and no unhealthy competition for places of honour. Every seat in God's kingdom is a place of honour because God's love is superior to all human glory. Inviting the poor and the marginalized to a party implies that they too are God's children. Hospitality should be open to all. As we receive hospitality from God, we should learn to share it with others.