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.
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 lnes, 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.'"
Our deepest hope is given us by God and offers us great prospects. We cannot ignore or reject it without losing out in the process. Hope is not given simply for our private contentment, for unless it is shared, it is lost. The ever-hopeful watchword of Paul is, "Rejoice in hope." The reading from Romans begins with the need to share our gifts, because we are "one body in Christ and individually members one of another." Each one, compared to a member of the human body, must serve the entire body exercise one's gifts in such a way that the hand is never thinking just of the hand but of the mouth to which it offers food, and the mouth is never so absorbed with chewing as to overlook whether the stomach can digest the food and nourish the other parts of the body, including both arm and mouth.
He lists seven gifts bestowed on believers: 1. prophecy, in accordance with faith, so that the bond of unity in Christ be strengthened; 2. ministry, to represent the church in serving others in their material or physical needs; 3. teaching, that the mystery of Jesus be ever more profoundly appreciated; 4. exhortation, like parents joyfully encouraging then-children in their talents; 5. almsgiving from one's private resources, generously and graciously; 6. administration which should recognize its subordinate place on the list of gifts and act "with love"; 7. works of mercy, to be cheerfully performed. Not only does the entire church depend on the right functioning of each member within the body, but each member will shrivel and weaken, unless 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 especially, Jesus is often shown in conversation during a meal. Today he is guest at a meal hosted by a leading Pharisee at which other Pharisees and experts in Jewish law were present. One of the guests utters his faith in the form of a beatitude, "Happy the one who will be at the table in the kingdom of God." In reply, Jesus offers a parable which compares God's kingdom to a great feast. But whereas the other guest's beatitude refers to a great feast in the future, in Jesus' parable the invitations to the feast have already gone out in the present. He draws people's attention away from the future and into the here and now. The invitations have already gone out. What is to be our response right now, to God's invitation? In the parable, people who initially said "yes" to the invitation turned it down at the last minute, just as the meal was ready to be served. They got distracted by various worldly attachments, which are all good in themselves but are not the primary good. As a result of their refusal, a surprising, last-minute invitation goes out to the kinds of people who normally get invited to nothing. These have no strong attachments and are delighted to accept. The parable is a reminder to us to be attentive to the Lord's invitation in the present moment and not to allow the good things of this world to so absorb us that we are not longer free to respond to his invitation as it comes to us in the here and now of our daily lives.