Then Jesus said to the host who invited him, “When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Luke 14: 7-14
Upon my return from the war raging in Iraq in 2005, Jesus invited me to join him for a banquet that he was invited to in Haiti. Father Jeff was also going to bless the Home for the Elderly named Queen of Peace after this community. Queen of Peace is constantly inviting the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind to this table through their stewardship of the first 10% of your collection. Just like the Gospel passage we heard, none of the people we help could repay us back. Just by being a member of Queen of Peace Parish Community could be the first step to a really nice seat at the Table in Heaven and Earth.
After the blessing of this home, the small group of us Queen of Peace Missionaries and Jesus were invited to celebrate. Then Jesus invited Father Jeff and I to a home for the malnourished children in a town called Aquin. This was the most amazing place I have ever seen. Parents or family must stay with the very malnourished child and learn skills to keep their children healthy and avoid having to come back. Many times the mothers sit at the perimeter. On this occasion, Jesus had a little girl about 3 or 4 years old on his lap. She was licking a lollipop. Before I could save Jesus from what was unfolding, the little girl gleefully took the lollipop out of her mouth and forcefully thrust the lollipop into Jesus’ mouth. Jesus seemed to delight in the generosity of the little girl. I on the other hand was aghast.
Then the little girl who had invited Jesus to her own little banquet showered Jesus with another unexpected and humbling gift. When the good sister lifted the child off of his lap, the little girl had baptized Jesus with a generous portion of piddle. When I looked into the eyes of Jesus with my own horror, he simply smiled and had this look of radiance, acceptance, humility, love and great gratitude for this little girl’s gifts.
Beloved, all of us can invite people to a banquet or luncheon. We have been invited to this great banquet where Mary, the Queen of Peace is the hostess. We receive the Body and Blood of Jesus. We become what we eat. We have everything we could ever possibly desire. Do you remember when Peter and John were going into the temple and came upon a crippled man? They said to him, “We do not have anything of value to give you, but what we do have you can have. In the name of Jesus, rise and be healed!” He sprang up. Peter and John invited the crippled man to the Banquet.
Let me tell you a secret. This is a true story, but it was Father Jeff who was really sitting with the little girl with the lollipop. It was Fr. Jeff who received gifts. Jeff was invited to Haiti as a guest of the poor and sat at the lowest place. He was humbled by the generosity of the little girl. He was the one whom I tried to save, but the little girl beat me too it. And she did it with a splash.
Let’s keep doing it. Let’s keep inviting the poor in body & spirit, the crippled by grief, and those blind to God’s infinite love. Let’s continue to invite them to the Table of Plenty where saint and sinners are friends. Let us become what we eat and invite people to this Eucharistic Banquet. Let us give from our want, not from our surplus. We need to love those we share our gifts with.
We are one with God. We inherit God’s love. What could we fear?
Tithing isn’t about repaying God, but rather it is an opportunity to invite others to share in our abundance of love with a splash and joy.