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Let’s suppose I was invited to a banquet. I walk in and someone sees me from the head table and says, “Hey, Father, over here there is a seat.” So I sit down at the table and there I notice that everyone at this table is rich and famous. In fact, Billy Gates is seated to the right of me. He sees my collar, shakes my hand, and asks how I am doing. I tell him “pretty good.” “Why is it just pretty good,” he responds. I then explain to him that I have a church that is old and always needs repairs. He asks how much it costs for the most recent repair. I tell him. He mumbles something about pocket change, and reaches inside his coat and pulls out his checkbook. Just as he is reaching for his checkbook, I feel a tap on the shoulder. I turn and there are two gentlemen standing behind me. One of them says to me, “Father, I am very sorry but you are sitting in the seat of the keynote speaker.” So I get up and give my seat to the guest speaker for the evening. At that moment, Mr. Gates wants to shake hands with the keynote speaker, but he can’t because there is a checkbook in his hand. He slips the checkbook back in his pocket, and I slink away empty-handed. I now look for another seat. I find one at the last table in the back of the banquet hall. I sit down and introduce myself to the man next to me. He tells me that the seat that I am sitting in would have been for his wife but she is in the hospital. He said, “My wife would love you to visit her and offer her a pray.” I said, “I would be honored.” I reach inside my coat pocket to get a pen and paper. As I do this I realize at that moment that I am at the right seat. Now I am the giver.
I made up that story up to demonstrate a point. In the ancient world, people went to banquets. We know that Jesus went to such banquets and commented on how people love to sit at the seats of honor. That is because, in the ancient world, you didn’t go to banquets for the food, you went to banquets so you can get stuff. If you sit at the right table you can get tickets to sporting events, insights on the stock market, and if you are having car trouble, just bring it to my shop. You could get really good stuff at banquets if you sit at the right table. But Jesus invites us to sit at the last table in the rear because that is where the have-nots are sitting. It is in the last table you will become the givers. It is there that you will find opportunity, where you will make a difference in people’s lives. It is there that you will be truly fulfilled
About a year after I got my driver’s license, a nice lady from church asked if I would help her at Medfield State Hospital every Sunday morning. They needed a hand getting some of the patients to the main pavilion for Mass. When I got there they immediately teamed me up with Billy. Billy was a young man who was paralyzed from the neck down. He had limited use of his hands and he could not talk. The next Sunday I knew the routine. I went right away to find Billy. He was in his wheelchair fast asleep. In fact, every Sunday when I got there I found him asleep. It must have been about the fourth Sunday, I was about to leave when the kitchen help dropped off a tray of hot lunch in front of Billy. The aid then left to get another tray for someone else. Naturally, Billy was looking down at the food but he couldn’t feed himself because of his paralysis. So I went over to the nurse (who was helping someone else) and asked if someone was going to help Billy eat because his food is getting cold. The nurse said we are really low on staff today and he would have to wait. I asked if I could I help out – sure she said. So I picked up a fork, harpooned a few string beans and lifted them in front of Billy’s mouth. He shook his head NO. I tapped the chicken with the fork and again I got a NO. I said to him, “You’re not going for the delicious chocolate pudding before eating your veggies, are you?” That was the first time I ever saw him smile.
It was during that meal that I learned Billy’s personality. I learned that mealtime was his favorite event of the day because he loves to eat. I learned that he likes hamburgers, hotdogs, French fries, onion rings, and anything with chocolate. It was the first time I heard him laugh and it was the first time he heard me laugh. Just before I left to go home I told him, “I’m bringing the food next week.”
The next Sunday when I went to get Billy, I saw him do something that I never saw him do before. I didn’t find him asleep in his wheelchair. He was waiting at the door for me.
Here is the faith lesson. We can spend our lives being takers, but Jesus invites us to be the givers of the world. We invited by God to go to the back of the hall were that have-nots sit. It is there that we will find the most opportunity, where we will make a difference in the world, and where we will be fulfilled in life.Back to All Homilies