We who are many are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.
O Lord, my heart is not proud
nor haughty my eyes.
I have not gone after things too great
nor marvels beyond me. (R./)
Truly I have set my soul
in silence and peace.
A weaned child on its mother's breast,
even so is my soul. (R./)
O Israel, hope in the Lord
both now and for ever. (R./)
One of the dinner guests said to Jesus, "Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!"
In reply, Jesus said to him, "Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. At the time for the dinner he sent his slave to say to those who had ben invited, 'Come; for everything is ready now.' But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, 'I have bought a piece of land, and I must go out and see it; please accept my regrets.' Another said, 'I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please accept my regrets.' Another said, 'I have just been married, and therefore I cannot come.' So the slave returned and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his slave, 'Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.' And the slave said, 'Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room." Then the master said to the slave, 'Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those who were invited will taste my dinner.'"
Hope is not given to us simply for our private contentment, for unless it is shared, it is lost. A phrase used by St Paul in his final advice to the Romans is, "Rejoice in hope." He stresses the need to share our gifts with others, because we are "one body in Christ and individually members one of another." Each one, like an organ in the human body, must serve the entire body. He expands on this image with practical examples. When the hand brings food to the mouth it is not for the hand's sake but for the whole body. Likewise the mouth is never so absorbed with chewing that we eat only for the sake of our palate, but as fuel for the whole body.
Paul lists seven gifts bestowed on believers:
1. prophecy, to strengthen our shared faith in Christ;
2. ministry, to serve others in their material or physical needs;
3. teaching, that the mystery of Jesus be more fully appreciated;
4. exhortation, like joyfully encouraging children to use their talents;
5. almsgiving from one's private resources, generously and graciously;
6. administration which should be done as a service of love;
7. works of mercy, to be done cheerfully.
Not only does the entire church depend on the right functioning of each member within the body, but each member weakens, unless it is properly exercised. The Gospel reinforces this principle. We should not set our own individual goals against Christ's invitation into the church and into community. Remembering how helpless and impoverished we would be, left to our own devices only, we take our part in welcoming others into the hospitable family of God.
In Luke's gospel, Jesus is often shown talking with other guests at a meal. Today he is hosted by a leading Pharisee and other Pharisees and Jewish lawyers were present. One of the guests makes an enthusiastic outburst of faith in the form of a beatitude, "Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!" In reply, our Lord tells a parable comparing God's kingdom to a great feast. But whereas the other guest's outburst looked forward to a great feast in the future, in the parable the invitations to the feast have already gone out in the present. Jesus draws people's attention back from the future to the here and now.
If the invitations have already gone out, what is to be our response to God's invitation? Ominously, we learn that some people who initially said "yes" to the invitation turned it down at the last minute, when the meal was ready to be served. They let themselves be distracted by various interests, which are all good in themselves but are not the primary good. The excuses they made are not unlike what we ourselves might make. But as a result of their refusal, their places are given to the kinds of people who normally get invited to nothing. These poor people had no other engagements and were delighted to accept. It's a reminder to say yes to the Lord's invitation in the present moment and not to let minor matters take all of our time, so that we are not longer free to say yes when God calls.