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Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time

Phil. 2:1-4 & Lk. 14:12-14

Jesus tells us that the second commandment is, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Saint Paul tells us how we are to achieve this in the First Reading today - we must be united in our convictions and united in our love. And Paul tells us that would make him happy! We must do nothing out of selfishness but rather regard others as more important than ourselves.

The call of a Christian is to impart dignity to others by enabling them to appreciate the inherent dignity given them by God. If every life has dignity and worth, which it does, then we must be willing to surface that dignity in whomever we meet, especially in the poor, the aged, the handicapped, the mentally ill, the ‘difficult people’ and even those who do not embrace the same values. The Spirit will lead us to behave like this. Looking out for 'Number One' will have no place in our lives. Is this not how Jesus has loved each one of us?

The advice that Jesus gives in the Gospel follows the pattern of His Father's action. Jesus says that whenever anyone gives a dinner party they should not invite those who will invite them in return. God invites us to His everlasting banquet, and we are represented in the Gospel by the beggars and the crippled, the lame and the blind - those who are in no position to return God's favour. We have nothing to offer God except our thanks, and our prayer of Thanksgiving adds nothing to God's greatness.

At every Mass we have a sign and example of God's generosity. The bread and wine which we bring to the altar are not really ours. They already belong to God, for they are the fruit of the earth which God has created. They are the work of human hands, too, but it is God who gives our hands the necessary skills. God takes these materials, and through the Holy Spirit transforms them into the most marvellous gift imaginable, the Body and Blood of His Son that was shed on Calvary for our benefit. It is now our spiritual banquet.

God has been generous with His spiritual gifts. We can never repay His hospitality in spiritual terms but in the material world we too can imitate God's generosity. Jesus tells us to invite into our homes those who cannot repay us, the poor and less fortunate. How many of us can take His words literally? If we opened our doors to these types of people they would probably soil our carpets, raid our fridge or even make off with our valuables. The police would tell us how stupid we had been, and I am sure you and I would agree with them! How, then, are we to put Our Lord's words into effect?

I am sure Jesus was exaggerating when He said we should invite the poor in preference to our friends. He is reminding us that “the poor are always with us” and we have a duty to remember them and to do our best to help them. If we move in the same social circle all the time, there is a danger that we may forget the existence of those on the fringes of society. Mixing with our own circle can be competitive. People return the invitation and then try to outdo each other in standards of food and entertainment. Being hospitable to the poor is true generosity, because they are in no position to return the favour.

Lord Jesus, help us to be generous as Your heavenly Father is to all, the good and the bad. May we never forget the poor who are always with us, for whatever we do for them we are doing for You.

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