07 November. Tuesday, Week 31
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 the one 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 implanted in us by God and offers the prospect of a better future. The gift of hope is not given simply for our private peace, for unless it is shared, it tends to shrivel. The watchword of the ever-hopeful Paul is, "Rejoice in hope." In Romans 12 he reminds us to share our gifts, because in Christ we form one body and are as individuals "members one of another." Each one, like an organ in the human body, must serve the entire body. So we should exercise our talents 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 allows the stomach to digest the food, and so nourish all other parts of the body, arm, mouth and all.
To illustrate the life-enhancing interaction within the community, Paul lists seven gifts that need to be operative:
1. PROPHECY, in accordance with faith, to animate the community’s faith;
2. MINISTRY, to serve others in their material or physical needs;
3. TEACHING, that the influence of Jesus be more deeply appreciated;
4. EXHORTATION, like parents joyfully encouraging their children;
5. ALMSGIVING From one's own resources, generously and graciously;
6. LEADERSHIP, to be exercised with loving zeal (spoudé);
7. WORKS OF MERCY, to be cheerfully performed.
Not only does the church depend on the cooperation of each member within the body, but each member diminishes, unless properly exercised.
The Gospel reinforces this principle. Our personal goals must not resist Christ's invitation into a sense of community living. Remembering how helpless and impoverished we would be in isolation, we take our part in welcoming others into the hospitable family of God.
In Luke's gospel especially, Jesus frequently engages in conversation during a meal. Today that meal hosted by a leading Pharisee, so that other Pharisees and experts in Jewish law were present. One of these expresses his faith in the form of a beatitude, Happy the one who will be at the table in the kingdom of God; and Jesus replies with 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 our response right now, to God's invitation? In the parable, some 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 private goals, all of them alright in themselves but which kept them from the greater good. As a result of their refusal, a last-minute call goes out to the kinds of people who normally don't get invited. These humble folk have no strong attachments and are delighted to accept. The parable reminds us to be attentive to God's invitation in the present moment and not let the good things of life so entangle us that we are deaf to the daily promptings of grace.
Willibrord (c. 658-739) was a missionary from Northumbria who, at the request of Pepin, king of the Franks, brought Christianity to Frisia (now Holland) and became the first Bishop of Utrecht. Due to his frequent visits to Echternach (Luxemburg), he was later interred there. An admiring account of his life was written by his former student, the scholar-monk Alcuin of York (735-805).