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The Most Opportune Place to Be
I read the parable and I know exactly why the high priests and the religious leaders want to sit with the high rollers at the front table at the banquet hall. That is because I have insider information. When a priest sits at the place of honor, they get Red Sox tickets, they get a new boiler for the church, and their roof repaired. In the ancient world, you didn’t go to banquets for food; you went to banquets to make friends with the rich because you could get stuff. But Jesus invites us not to go to the front table and be a taker, but rather, go to the last table in the rear where the have-nots are sitting, and be a giver.
Remember the story of the storm at sea. The disciples fear for their lives and wake us Jesus to save them. Immediately, after they arrive at the shore on the other side, a man possessed by legion walks out of the tombs. It was like a scene from Michael Jackson’s video The Thriller. As if drowning were not enough. Now they have to deal with an axe murderer. What interests me about the scene is when the devils recognize Jesus. They do not run away from God as if they are in big trouble. Nor do they fear being in the presence of pure goodness. They approach Jesus with great respect, recognize His power and greatness, answer His questions, and ask him for a favor. I do the same thing. When I walk by a church, I do not run away or try to avoid it. I enter, recognize God’s presence, acknowledge His greatness, and ask Him for favors. What is so special about that? Devils do that.
The problem with the devils is that they have no remorse or regret for destroying this man’s life. They separated him from his family and friends and isolated him in a cemetery. The devils have no gratitude toward God. Think of the things you could do if you were a spirit. You wake up in the morning with a bad back and you can hardly get out of bed. No problem if you are a spirit. Or you are at work and the supply closet is locked and no one has the key. No problem if you are a spirit. You just pass through the door. Or you are at the airport and your flight is canceled. No problem if you are a spirit. You will be the first at the meeting in Chicago. Yet these spirits do nothing with their gifts.
Remember Zacchaeus the chief tax collector? He is like the devils; everyone hates him. Yet, when he encounters Jesus, the opposite happens. He tells the Lord that if he had hurt anyone and had taken too much money, he would give back four times the amount. He promised that half his wealth would go to the poor. And Jesus exclaimed, “This man is special.”
When I go to a banquet, I want to be the one who is the giver. I want to be the one who takes the gifts that God has given me and make a difference. I want to be the one who makes an impact in the world. I cannot do that if I go to the front table because those seated there already have everything. I can be the giver if I go to the last table in the back.
Here is the faith lesson. Take your life, and all that God gave you and make it special.Back to All Homilies