Phil 1:18b-26; Ps 42:2,3,5cdef; Lk 14:1,7-11
Today we ask the question posed by the psalm: “When shall I go and behold the face of God?” Today we admit our deepest longing. Like a hind longs for running waters, so we too long for the LORD Our God. Indeed, it is a thirst deep and unquenchable. No one can quench such a thirst. No one can save himself. Athirst is our soul for God, the Living God, the One True and Only God. When, oh when will this desire deep and urgent be satisfied? We join the throng of all who thirst. We join the procession of all who hunger and thirst for holiness as they hurry on to the very house of God. Such a procession moves amid loud cries of joy and thanksgiving. Such a multitude rejoices to share in the festival of those who know their hunger and admit their thirst. Indeed, this is the greatest joy of our hearts to know what we hunger for and why we thirst so. This is the delight of living in faith. As the Vatican Council taught us, we share in the joy and hope of all who dwell on earth. This is the common bond of our human adventure. When we work side by side with those who share our hunger and thirst, we witness to the delight of tasting and seeing that the LORD is good, and there is no other. This, our constant and universal witness, proclaims the same Lord Jesus that Saint Paul loved and proclaimed to the people of Philippi. This is the hunger the Lord Jesus came to satisfy and the thirst he came to quench in all his table fellowship. At this Eucharist we come to know the hospitality of our heavenly home so that when we arrive we will know we are home.
The greatest joy of Saint Paul’s heart is that the Lord Christ is being proclaimed. Indeed, he knows that his rejoicing is the result of the love and prayers of all who have received the Gospel he proclaimed. Saint Paul admits to the Church in Philippi his eager expectation and hope that he will continue to preach with all boldness. In this way Christ is magnified in his body, in both life or death. This apostle is not afraid to die or to continue living in the service of Christ. He shares with us this desire only to do the will of God. He wants to be with the Lord completely and eternally, but he also wants all people to come to share such joy. For this end Saint Paul is willing to continue the struggle, share in the Cross, and give himself completely to the service of the church. He is confident that his service will enable progress in joy and faith. He is confident that the only thing worth boasting in is the Lord Jesus Christ, here and now and ever and forever.
For the Lord Jesus dinning was an opportune place to nourish the soul even as the body and mind were being fed. At this meal the Lord is sharing the table with a curious lot. He has set down to dine with his opponents. Who were keeping a careful eye upon their guest; perhaps anticipating a public slip up. Out of the common gathering practices of his day the Lord Jesus weaves a parable to instruct his disciples and his adversaries. Both groups needed to learn of the divine dining practices. Indeed, anyone who wants to share in the heavenly banquet must have an open ear and a ready heart to incline to the Master’s instruction. The Lord Jesus has seen through many such occasions to identify the motives of the human heart. So often we seek to build up our own reputation by sitting next to the people of power. Even if these important members of society have nothing in particular to share with us in table banter, merely being near them makes us look important to the other guests. This kind of social planning can backfire if we are required to give up our chosen seat to someone more important. Such a painful lesson we can avoid by sitting in the lowest place, and being asked to move up to a higher position will make us a public spectacle in an honorable way rather than in a humiliating way. This teachable moment in the public ministry of the Lord Jesus uses the real life situation to summon both disciple and enemy to humility. None of us lacks hesitation when it comes to learning how to be humble. Few of us are wise enough to sit next to the most humble man at every table, the One who came to serve and not to be served.