22nd Sunday C
Sunday 28th August 2022
The Gospel Paraphrased
There are many fine translations of the Gospels readily available. This paraphrase is not meant to replace them. Rather the intention here is to offer a more contemporary rendering so that you can imaginatively translate the Gospel in your own situation.
This Sunday's Gospel Paraphrased
Lk 14:1, 7-14
On the Sabbath day, Jesus was invited for a meal at the home of one of the leading Pharisees. Those who gathered watched him closely. A man with severe swelling was there and Jesus cured him in spite of the silent disapproval of the Pharisees.
Jesus had noticed how the guests had jockeyed for the places of honour so he told them a parable. He said, ‘When you are invited to a wedding reception, don’t go in and take a place up near the wedding table. Someone more important may have been invited, and the host who had invited you both may come up and say, “’Look, you’re going to have to move someplace else.” Then you’ll find yourself embarrassed, searching for a place and probably have to take the worst one. No, when you are a guest, go and sit in the worst spot. Then when your host comes, you may find him coming over and saying, while leading you to a better seat, “O no, my dear friend, you need a better place than that!” And everyone around you will be so impressed. For those who take honours to themselves are going to find themselves humiliated, but those who are humble will find themselves honoured.
Jesus then continued, ‘When you put on a meal, don’t invite your friends, family, neighbours or work associates. There is no generosity in inviting them as they’ll invite you back. No, when you want to party, invite the poor, the marginalised, the disabled, the refugee – the very people who cannot repay you. Such generosity will be repaid – when the virtuous rise again.’
The Psalms are the ancient prayers of the Jewish people, here paraphrased into contemporary language.
This Sunday's Psalm
Ps 67:4-7, 10-11
The just shall rejoice before the face of God.
They shall rejoice beyond rejoicing.
Sing praise to God, sing praise to his name.
Extol the one who rides on the heavens,
give glory to his name.
A father to the fatherless,
a just judge for the widow,
such is God in his holy dwelling.
He gives a family to those alone,
gives freedom to those bound in chains.
O God, you gave abundant rain,
You strengthened your people when they suffered abjection.
In this inheritance your people have found a home.
Out of your goodness you have prepared all this for the poor.
Words cannot contain our desire for God but they help direct our minds and hearts towards God's love and express our needs.
This Sunday's Prayer
Loving God, give me the grace to enter into each situation, each social gathering as simply the person you want me to be. Release me from the burden of comparing myself with others. And as you free me from this burden, may I be free enough to welcome others as simply the persons you want them to be. I ask this in Jesus’ name confident that you will hear me.
The Commentaries Summarised
As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.
This Sunday's Commentary
In the midst of growing antagonism (Jesus’ prediction that the Jews and Jerusalem will reject him, Jesus’ criticism of Herod) a leading Pharisee invites Jesus to a meal and all the guests, his friends and associates presumably, watch Jesus closely. With such an attitude, why did they invite Jesus in the first place: this is not a friendly gesture. In that atmosphere Jesus performs a healing miracle, which is not in this Sunday’s reading. A man with dropsy – a form of severe swelling which is often associated with congestive heart failure – is there. Well, there certainly is heart failure on the part of the hosts who sullenly refuse to answer when Jesus asks them whether he should heal the man or not – it is the Sabbath. Of course, he does do the healing.
Jesus shows that he too had been watching closely, seeing them jockey for the place of honour at table. In light of this, he tells a ‘parable’. Note the term being used. This is a symbolic story, so we can expect some form of artistic license. Much has been written about how we should understand the lowest place. But imagine if the opposite did happen as Jesus recommends: there would be inverse jockeying. Same problem but in a different part of the room. Note, in the story, the use of the word ‘may’: the host ‘may’ come and ‘may’ invite you higher, but then he may not. You may find yourself left in the lowest place. But consider if you went and didn’t concern yourself about ‘place’ – that you entered into the spirit of celebration irrespective of where you were sitting or whom you were sitting with. That is truly the lowest and the highest place, both at the same time.
That attitude can be extended to whom one invites. Our tendency is to invite those we are comfortable with or who can do us a favour. But if we aim to invite people to simply enjoy their company – even if it is a challenge and we get nothing out of it – then we have already had our reward. Extending ourselves to the marginalised prepares our hearts for the greatest party of all: the coming Kingdom of God.
Christian conversion is promoted by conversation. This section is a response to and a development on the knowledge gained from the commentary section.
This Sunday's Exposition
Is Jesus messing with the minds of these Pharisees? Is Jesus messing with our minds? Imagine if we did just what Jesus recommends when we went to an event – there would be a scramble for the lowest place, and the same sort of machinations would ensue as when people scrambled for the first. But what if ‘place’ didn’t matter at all – except for good order?
A few years ago, I attended a workshop with a world-renowned calligrapher. Most in the class were excellent calligraphers. A few, myself included, were not. The teacher’s educative process was for each of us to do an exercise then bring an example to the front for public critique. Scary stuff? Not with him, it wasn’t. He found something good in everyone’s work. (Indeed, I felt he learnt something from each piece.) And he found something to challenge in every piece of work – even the most stunning. Being better or worse than others simply did not come into his judgements. The principle he operated on was that we each wanted to become a better calligrapher – as he did himself. We were all there together to learn from our practice and from each other. His method of teaching exemplified the transformation that comes about when we embrace the humility that Jesus is offering us. We get off the treadmill of comparison, which is so destructive of our spirit, and enter into the dynamic dance of love and creativity. We accept ourselves…and we accept each other.
Reflection is an essential element of our growth in Christ. As we reflect over what we have learnt and ponder it in our hearts, we come to recognise the presence of God in our lives.
This Sunday's Reflection
A story was told about a woman who, with her fiancé, planned a wedding reception at a swish New York hotel. Then, one week before the wedding, he pulled out of the coming marriage – but she couldn’t pull out of the contract with the hotel. Knocked by her rejection, she didn’t withdraw into herself. She had paid for a party, then party she would…just not with quite the same guests. She went to the local refuges for the poor and homeless and invited the people there to come party with her and her friends. What a change of venue for them for one night! What a party!
When we hear this story, indeed when we hear Jesus’ injunction in the Gospel to invite the poor and rejected instead of our family and friends to our parties, we might be inspired but, for all intents and purposes, we ignore the idea as impractical. But is it? If we presume that Jesus might be telling this story with Semitic exaggeration, we can then consider how we could apply this in ordinary life. In virtually every human gathering, there are people who are popular and those who are not, people who are a delight to be with and those with whom we struggle. Our tendency is to mix with those with whom we feel comfortable or who could do us a favour. But imagine if, every day, we discombobulated ourselves and were friendly to one person whom we would prefer to ignore…slowly, slowly our hearts would expand with generosity. Slowly, slowly our social skills would improve (yes, that is a payoff). Slowly, slowly we would love like God. We don’t need to wait till we have a party to live out this command of Jesus. We can do it when we go to church, to work, in our street…indeed, in almost any place where people gather: we can welcome the poor and socially marginalised.
Looking at art works or movies is a great way to open ourselves to the meaning of the Gospels. Seeing can bypass our preconceived notions, giving us new vistas of enlightenment. With painting or sculpture one needs to sit quietly and absorb the dynamics of the piece. The drama of movies more easily engages us and offers a way to conversation about the Gospel with other members of your family.
This Sunday's Visual Meditation
I was unable to find any artworks on this particular Gospel scene but this meditation on the work of Marc Cazalet is an exploration of the image of Christ choosing the lowest place. See Christ the Light of Hackney.
The purpose of mulling meditations is to offer a few ideas that one can mull about while doing other occupations. There are many things we do in our day that do not require our full attention - some things which are largely done on automatic pilot - like driving a car or peeling the potatoes. While we give these our attention, part of our mind is still at work mulling on other things and unless it is given something positive to feed on, we easily feed on negative thoughts. Personally I find mulling time the most likely time for God to get through to me. Because I am not so conscious of myself, God gets through the cracks and opens my heart to look at life differently.
Two practical times for mulling can be when exercising and when driving. Some small preparations for integrating such prayer into these exercises can be helpful.
As you do your preparatory stretches, pray the line of the Psalm "I praise you God for I am wonderfully made!"
Similarly when doing your concluding stretches use the prayer of St Clare "Praised be you, my God, for creating me!"
Have some music that you find helps you turn you mind and heart to God and play that for the first 10 minutes or so of your trip.
This Sunday's Mulling Meditation
As you go through this week, mull on how you relate to other people in groups. Do you try to push yourself forward, or big note yourself? Do you find yourself putting others down in order to make yourself look better? Or do you simply accept yourself and others as God has made you to be?
In the Letter of James, we are told that the Scriptures are like a mirror in which we can see ourselves. In this type of meditation we take a piece of Scripture, hold it before us and consider what echoes within our heart. These echoes help us to see who we are before God and how we are loved. What usually echoes in us are situations that we are dealing with in our lives. When something strikes us, we do not actively try to solve the situation or work it through. Rather we sit holding it in God's love. The point of such a meditation is to make space within the situation for God's love to be. In 'sitting with' such a situation, painful or sad, we come to recognise the love of God that is at work on our lives. The suggestions for Mirror reflections can also be used for Exercise reflections but wouldn't be advised for Driving Prayer as often some degree of emotion or distraction might rise in such prayer.
This Sunday's Mirror Meditation
Rest in the love of your God.
Think about the times when you gather with other people – at work, at church, at social events. Who do you spend your time with? Is it the same people? Do you mix around?
Who are the people who are socially isolated within these groups? Can you imagine ways that you could make these people more welcome? What could you say to draw them into the group?
Rest in the love of your God.
Suggestions for the Programme
The elements of the programme can be used in any way that helps your prayer. The suggestions below are fairly simple ways of using this programme.
Become conscious of your God
Hymn or poem
Reading of Gospel text
Mulling over a reflection
Become conscious of your God
Reading of Gospel text and reflection
The programme can also be used for Staff Prayer. How you may put together such a prayer would be influenced largely by the size and dynamics of your staff. For example, a smaller staff group might be able to use discussion of a movie as a way of exploring the meaning of a Gospel.
A painting illustrating the Gospel could be displayed on an interactive board
Reading of the Gospel
Invitation for share reflections
Reading of part of the Gospel
One or two of the mulling themes
Time for reflection
- Table of Plenty by Dan Schutte
- All are Welcome by Marty Haugen
- Canticle of the Turning by Rory Cooney
- Whatsoever you do by Willard Jabusch