Lectio Divina: Luke 14:15-24
1) Opening prayer
God of power and mercy,
only with your help
can we offer you fitting service and praise.
May we live the faith we profess
and trust your promise of eternal life.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel reading - Luke 14:15-24
One of those gathered round the table said to Jesus, "Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God." But He said to him, "There was a man who gave a great banquet, and he invited a large number of people. When the time for the banquet came, he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, saying ’Come along: everything is ready now.’ But all alike started to make excuses.
The first said, ’I have bought a piece of land and must go and see it. Please accept my apologies.’
Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen and am on my way to try them out. Please accept my apologies.’
Yet another said, ’I have just got married and so am unable to come.’
The servant returned and reported this to his master. Then the householder, in a rage, said to his servant, ’Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in here the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’
’Sir,’ said the servant, ’your orders have been carried out and there is still room.’
Then the master said to his servant, ’Go to the open roads and the hedgerows and press people to come in, to make sure my house is full; because, I tell you, not one of those who were invited shall have a taste of my banquet.’”
• The Gospel today continues the reflection around themes linked to the table and the invitation. Jesus tells the parable of the banquet. Many people had been invited, but the majority did not go. The master of the feast was indignant because of the absence of those who had been invited and then sent his servants to call the poor, the crippled the blind and the lame. Even after that, there was still room. Then he ordered his servant to invite everybody until his house was full. This parable was a light for the communities of the time of Luke.
• In the communities at the time of Luke there were Christians who had come from Judaism and Christians who came from the Gentiles, called pagans. Not withstanding the difference in race, class and gender, they profoundly lived the ideal of sharing and of communion (Ac 2, 42; 4, 32; 5, 12). But there were many difficulties because some norms of legal purity prevented the Jews to eat with the pagans. Even after they had entered into the Christian community, some of them kept this old custom of not sitting at table with a pagan. This is the reason Peter had a conflict with the community in Jerusalem, because he entered into the house of Cornelius, a pagan, and for having eaten with him (Ac 11, 3). Because of these problems in the communities, Luke kept a series of teachings of Jesus regarding the banquet. (Lk 14, 1-24). The parable on which we are meditating is an image of what was happening in the communities.
• Luke 14, 15: Blessed are those who will eat the bread of the Kingdom of God. Jesus had finished telling two parables: one on the choice of places (Lk 14, 7-11), and the other on the choice of the guests who were invited (Lk 14, 12-14). While listening to this parable someone who was at table with Jesus must have picked up the importance of the teaching of Jesus and must have said: “Blessed are those who eat the bread of the Kingdom of God!” The Jews compared the future time of the Messiah to a banquet, characterized by gratitude and communion (Is 25, 6; 55, 1-2; Sal 22, 27). Hunger, poverty and the lack of so many things made the people hope that in the future they would obtain what they were lacking and did not have at present. The hope of the Messianic goods, usually experienced in banquets, was a perspective of the end of time.
• Luke 14, 16-20: The great banquet is ready. Jesus responds with a parable. There was a man who gave a great banquet and he invited a great number of people”. But the duty of each one prevents the guests from accepting the invitation. The first one says: I have bought a piece of land and must go and see it!” The second I have bought five yoke of oxen and am on my way to try them out!” The third one: “I have just got married and so am unable to come!” In the limits of the law those persons had the right not to accept the invitation (cf. Dt 20, 5-7).
• Luke 14, 21-22: The invitation remains, it is not cancelled. The master of the banquet was indignant in seeing that his invitation had not been accepted. In the last instance, the one who is indignant is precisely Jesus because the norms of the strict observance of the law reduced the space for people to be able to live the gratuity of an invitation to the house of friends, an invitation characterized by the fraternal spirit and by sharing. Thus the master of the feast orders the servants to invite the poor, the blind, the crippled, the lame. Those who were normally excluded because they were considered unclean, are now invited to sit around the table of the banquet.
• Luke 14, 23-24: There is still room. The banquet room is not full. Then, the master of the house ordered the servants to invite those passing on the street. Those are the pagans. They are also invited to sit around the table. Thus, in the banquet of the parable of Jesus, everybody sits around the same table, Jews and pagans. At the time of Luke, there were many problems which prevented the realization of this ideal of the common banquet. By means of the parable Luke shows that the practice of the banquet came precisely from Jesus.
After the destruction of Jerusalem, in the year 70, the Pharisees took over the government in the Synagogues demanding the rigid fulfilment of the norms which identified them as the Jewish people. The Jews who converted to Christianity were considered a threat because they destroyed the walls which separated Israel from other people. The Pharisees tried to force them to abandon their faith in Jesus. Because they did not succeed, they drove them away from the Synagogues. All this brought about a slow and progressive separation between the Jews and the Christians which was a source of great suffering especially for the converted Jews (Rm 9,1-5). In the parable, Luke indicates very clearly that these converted Jews were not unfaithful to their people. To the contrary: they are the ones who are invited and accept the invitation. They are the true continuation of Israel. Those who were unfaithful were those who did not accept the invitation and did not want to recognize Jesus the Messiah (Lk 22, 66; Ac 13, 27).
4) Personal questions
• In general, which are the persons who are invited and which are the persons who in general are not invited to our feasts?
• Which are the reasons which today limit the participation of persons in society and in the Church? And which are the reasons that some give to exclude themselves from the community? Are they just reasons?
5) Concluding prayer
Full of splendour and majesty His work,
His saving justice stands firm for ever.
He gives us a memorial of His great deeds;
Yahweh is mercy and tenderness. (Ps 111,3-4)