Lectio Divina. Sunday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time.
Author: Order of Carmlites | Source: www.ocarm.org
1. Listening to the Text
a) Initial Prayer:
Lord, we all have an insatiable need to listen to you, and you know it, because your yourself has created us like that. “You alone have words of eternal life” (Jn 6, 68). We believe in these words, we are hungry and thirsty for these words; for these words, in humility and love, we commit all our fidelity. “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Sam 3, 9). It is the frantic prayer of Samuel who does not know; ours is somewhat different, but it has been precisely your voice, your Word, which has changed the shaking of the ancient prayer in the yearning for communion of a son who cries to his Father: Speak for your son is listening.
b) Reading of the Gospel:Luca 14,1.7-14
1 Now it happened that on a Sabbath day he had gone to share a meal in the house of one of the leading Pharisees; and they watched him closely.
7 He then told the guests a parable, because he had noticed how they picked the places of honour. He said this, 8 'When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take your seat in the place of honour. A more distinguished person than you may have been invited, 9 and the person who invited you both may come and say, "Give up your place to this man." And then, to your embarrassment, you will have to go and take the lowest place. 10 No; when you are a guest, make your way to the lowest place and sit there, so that, when your host comes, he may say, "My friend, move up higher." Then, everyone with you at the table will see you honoured. 11 For everyone who raises himself up will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be raised up.' 12 Then he said to his host, 'When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relations or rich neighbours, in case they invite you back and so repay you. 13 No; when you have a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; 14 then you will be blessed, for they have no means to repay you and so you will be repaid when the upright rise again.'
c) Moment of prayerful silence:
In order to be affected by the word of Christ and so that the Word made flesh, who is Christ, can dwell in our heart and that we can adhere, it is necessary that there be listening and profound silence.
2. The word is enlightened (Lectio)
The parable on the choice of place is narrated on a Saturday when Jesus is already in Jerusalem, where the Paschal Mystery will be fulfilled, where the Eucharist of the new Covenant will be celebrated, to which then follows, the encounter with the living one and the entrusting of mission of the disciples which prolongs thus the historical mission of Jesus. The light of the Passover makes all those who are called to represent him as servant, diakonos, within the community, gathered around the table, to see the road that the Lord follows. It is the theme of the guests at table or of joyful living together of Saint Luke. Jesus has realized the most beautiful reality, proclaimed and taught at table in a joyful, sociable frame.
In chapter 14, Luke, with his art of a capable narrator, paints a picture, in which he superimposed two images: Jesus at table defines the face of the new community, convoked around the Eucharistic table. The page is subdivided in two scenes: first, the invitation to dinner in the house of one of the chief Pharisees, on a feast day, Saturday (Lk 14, 15-16), which also concerns the problem of the guests: who will participate at the table of the Kingdom? This is prepared beginning now in the relationship with Jesus, who convokes around himself the persons in the community-Church.
- Saturday a day of feast and of liberation
This is the passage in Luke: “On a Sabbath day he had gone to share a meal in the house of one of the leading Pharisees; and they watched him closely.” (Lk 14, 1). On a feast day Jesus is invited by the one who is responsible for the movement of the observant or Pharisees. Jesus is at table. The first episode takes place in this context: the healing of a man with dropsy prevented by his physical disability to participate at table. Those who are sick in their body are excluded from the community by the observants as the Rule of Qumran says. The meal on Saturday has a festive and sacred character especially for the observant of the Law. In fact, on Saturday, there is a weekly remembrance of Exodus and of the creation. Jesus, precisely on that Saturday gives back freedom and reintegrates in full health the man with dropsy.
He therefore, justifies his gesture before the teachers and the observant of the Law with these words: “Which of you here if his ass or ox falls into a well, will not pull it out on a Sabbath day?”God is interested in persons and not only in the property or possessions of man. Saturday is not reduced to external observance of the sacred rest, but is in favour of man. With this concern turned toward man, is also given the key to define the criteria of convocation in this community symbolized by the table: How to choose the place? Whom to invite and who participates at the end in the Banquet of the Kingdom? The gesture of Jesus is a program: Saturday is made for man. On Saturday he does that which is the fundamental significance of the celebration of the memory of the getting out of Egypt and of creation.
- On the choice of places and of the guests
The criteria to choose the places are not based on precedence, on the roles or the fame or renown, but are inspired on the acts of God who promotes the last ones, “because the one who raises himself up will be humbled and the one who humbles himself will be raised up” (Lk 14, 11). This principle which closes the parable of the new etiquette, that of the turning over of the worldly criteria, refers to God’s action by means of the passive form “will be raised up”. God raises up the little ones and the poor as Jesus has done introducing the man with dropsy, who was excluded, to the table to eat together in the Sabbatical feast .
Then we have the criteria for the choice of guests. The criteria of recommendation and of corporative solidarity are excluded: “Do not invite your friends, or your brothers or your relations or rich neighbours…” “On the contrary, when you have a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind…” (Lk 14, 12.13).
The list begins with the poor, who in Luke’s Gospel are the beneficiaries of the Beatitudes: “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the Kingdom of Heaven”. In the list of the guests the poor are mentioned as the physically disabled, the handicapped, excluded from the confraternity of the Pharisees and from the ritual of the time (cf. 2 Sam 5, 8; Lv 21, 18).
This same list is found in the parable of the great banquet: the poor, the crippled, the blind, the lame, take the place of the respectful guests. (Lk 14, 21).
This second parable on the criteria of choice of the guests is proclaimed with this proclamation: “Then you will be blessed, for they have no means to repay you and so you will be repaid when the upright rise again” (Lk 14, 14), at the end of time when God will manifest his sovereignty communicating eternal life. At this point there is a phrase of one of the invited guests which is like a souvenir between the two small parables and the parable of the great banquet: “Blessed is anyone who will share the meal in the Kingdom of God” (Lk 14, 15). This word which recalls the Beatitude of the Kingdom and the condition to participate in it through the image of the banquet, “to eat the bread”, introduces the parable pf the great banquet in its eschatological meaning. But this final banquet, which is the Kingdom of God and the full communion with Him, is prepared at present by sitting and eating together at the same table. Jesus narrates this parable to interpret the convocation of men with the announcement of the Kingdom of God and through his historical action.
3. The word enlightens me (to meditate)
a) When Jesus was in the house of the Pharisee who had invited him to eat observes how those invited try to get the first places. It is a very common attitude in life, not only when one is at table: each one tries also to get the first place regarding attention and consideration on the part of others. Everyone, beginning by ourselves, we have this experience. But let us pay attention, the words of Jesus which exhort to abstain from seeking the first place are not simply an exhortation of good education; they are a rule of life. Jesus clarifies that it is the Lord to give to each one the dignity and the honour, we are not the ones to give it to ourselves, perhaps claiming our own merits. Like he did in the Beatitudes, Jesus turns over the judgement and the behaviour of this world. The one who recognizes himself a sinner and humble is raised up by God, but, who instead intends to get recognition and the first places risks to exclude himself from the banquet.
b) “Do not take your seat in the place of honour, a more distinguished person than you may have been invited… then to your embarrassment you will have to go and take the lowest place” (Lk 14, 8-9). It seems that Jesus takes as a joke the childish efforts of the gusts who struggle in order to get the best positions; but his intention has a more serious purpose. Speaking to the leaders of Israel he shows which is the power which builds up the relations of the Kingdom: “Whoever raises himself up will be humbled and who humbles himself will be raised up” (Lk 14, 11). He describes to them the “good use of power” founded on humility. It is the same power which God releases in humanity in the Incarnation: “At the service of the will of the Father, in order that the whole creation returns to him, the Word did not count “equality with God something to be grasped, but he emptied himself taking the form of a slave, becoming as human beings are; and being in every way like a human being, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death on the cross” (Phil 2, 6-8). This glorious kenosis of the Son of God has the capacity to heal, to reconcile and to liberate all creation. Humility is the force which builds up the Kingdom and the community of the disciples, the Church.
4. To pray – Psalm 23
The Psalm seems to turn around a title: the Lord is my shepherd”. The Saints are the image of the flock on the way: they are accompanied by the goodness and the loyalty of God, until they definitively reach the house of the Father (L. Alonso Schökel, The Psalms of trust, Dehoniana Books, Bologna 2006, 54).
Yahweh is my shepherd,
I lack nothing.
In grassy meadows he lets me lie.
By tranquil streams he leads me
to restore my spirit.
He guides me in paths of saving justice
as befits his name.
Even were I to walk
in a ravine as dark as death
I should fear no danger,
for you are at my side.
Your staff and your crook
are there to soothe me.
You prepare a table for me
under the eyes of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup brims over.
Kindness and faithful love
pursue me every day of my life.
I make my home in the house of Yahweh
for all time to come.
“Lord, thanks to your light which descended on me, it flooded my life with the conviction that I am a sinner. I have understood more deeply that your Son Jesus is my Saviour.
My will, my spirit, all my being hold Him tightly. May the omnipotence of your love, conquer me, Oh my God. Overthrow the resistance which frequently renders me rebellious, the nostalgia which impels me to be indolent, lazy; may your Love conquer everything so that I can be a happy trophy of your victory.
My hope is anchored in your fidelity. Whether I have to grow in the whirlwinds of civilization, I have converted into a flower and your watchman in this Spring which has blossomed, sprout out from the Blood of your Son. You look at each one of us, you take care of us, you watch over us; you, the Cultivator of this Spring of Eternal Life: you, Father of Jesus, and our Father; you, my Father!” (Anastasio Ballestrero).