27 August 2016

'But when you give a banquet, invite the poor . . .' Sunday Reflections, 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Baptism, Confirmation and First Holy Communion at Holy Family Home for Girls, Bacolod City

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely.

When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable.  “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
Responsorial Psalm (NAB Lectionary, Philippines, USA)

But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed . . . 
Last Sunday I experienced this after Mass at Holy Family Home for Girls (HFH) here in Bacolod City. Kathy wished to share her birthday joy - the day itself was actually the day before - with the girls at Holy Family Home along with her family and co-workers. Most of the more than 30 girls in Holy Family Home have had traumatic experiences in their lives and the majority are from poor families.
Kathy and her husband Hernan have been celebrating their birthdays with the girls at HFH and the Capuchin Tertiary Sisters of the Holy Family who run it for some years now. There are other families who have been doing the same, some in HFH, some in orphanages or homes for the aged in Bacolod City.
And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you . . .
Kathy, whose father died suddenly when she was only three months old, spoke briefly at the end of the programme after the catered lunch but asked Hernan to take over. (The programme included a magician, some games and dances by the girls.) He told us how blessed his whole family was simply by the joy they saw in the faces of the girls. That has been my own experience since I became involved with HFH nearly 14 years ago. That involvement has been one of the greatest blessings of my life, an ongoing one and all the greater because it was something I had never expected when I returned to the Philippines in 2002 after a two-year stint in Britain that was supposed to be a four-year one.
Most of these girls have had experiences that no child or young person should ever have. But in HFH they get the best of truly caring professional help that enables them to feel the healing power of God's love. Much of that healing comes form their interaction with each other and from their shared responsibilities. For example, each cubicle for personal hygiene is used by three girls, who also have to maintain it. And something that touched me when I first began to go to HFH and given the 'grand tour' was to learn that each new girl, whether still a child or already an adolescent, is given a cuddly toy which she keeps on her bed. There are two large dormitories, again maintained by the girls. And they make their bed first thing in the morning, have an early breakfast, gather for prayers and then go off to the local elementary and high schools, both within walking distance.

Columban Fr Michael Sinnott visits HFH

The girls had been praying their hearts out for Fr Sinnott, then 79, after he was kidnapped in October 2009. He came to visit them later. This was their reaction when I told them of his release:

Hernan reminded us in his 'few words' of Jesus and children: Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs (Matthew 19:14).

The First Reading and the Gospel remind me of a line in the Handbook of the Legion of MaryAlways will the legionary bear in mind that he is visiting not as a superior to an inferior, not as one equal to another, but as an inferior to his superior, as the servant to the Lord. This is the opposite of what I have heard many well-meaning people say: We must go down to the level of the poor (or whoever). Jesus identifies himself with the 'outsider', with the 'other', whoever the 'other' may be. And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me' (Matthew 25:40)

Children's Games, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1559-60
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna [Web Gallery of Art]

'Alleluia' by Ronald Raz
Quezon City, Philippines

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