Saint Alphonsus Rodriguez – Readings


Commentary on Ephesians 6:10-18; Ps 62; Luke 14:1, 7-11

The Gospel reading is from Luke. It comes from a passage where there are three passages all concerned with eating at table. We are told that Jesus came on a Sabbath day to have a meal in the house of one of the leading Pharisees. It is worth noticing that Jesus, known for his predilection for the poor and marginalised, did not practise any form of inverse snobbery. He was as ready to sit down with senior Pharisees as with the most despised of tax collectors. All needed to hear his message. His love and concern for all of them was exactly the same.
During the meal, Jesus spoke a parable to the gathered guests as he noticed how people were vying to get the more honoured places at table, like people today jockeying to sit at the top table with the VIPs.
He told them that, instead, when invited to a wedding banquet, one should not go and sit in a place of honour, as someone more important may come long and the host might ask you to yield your place to a “more important” person. You would then lose face in front of all the other guests.
Instead, Jesus said, you should go and sit in the lowest place so that the host will come along, “Oh, please, do come and sit up here.” And your social stock will go higher among the guests. For “everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Of course, what Jesus did not say is that the host might leave you seated at the table beside the kitchen! But then for those who have the mind of Christ this does not make a whit of difference. One’s real greatness is not measure by where one sits at a banquet. It is measured by totally different criteria.
Clearly, this passage applies perfectly to Alphonsus Rodriguez. He spent his whole life in one of the lowest positions in his Jesuit community – a receptionist at the door of the college. Socially, he was a nobody but over the years people began to realise the inner qualities of this simple, relatively uneducated man. They recognised his greatness and came to learn from him. He certainly could not care less where he was put sitting at a big dinner. 

The First Reading from the Letter to the Ephesians reflects the spiritual struggles which Alphonsus had to face. It is an exhortation to arm oneself with the virtues necessary to keep sin and temptation away for “our battle is not against human forces but against the principalities and powers, the rulers of this world of darkness”.
“You must put on the armour of God” – truth as the belt around your waist, justice as your breastplate, zeal to spread the gospel of peace as your footwear, faith as your shield, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, that is, the Word of God.
And finally, “at every opportunity pray in the Spirit… pray constantly and attentively…”
Alphonsus was known for his deep spirituality, as a person steeped in constant prayer. It was this which people recognised and which drew them to him for wise counsel. Overall, Alphonsus’ life tells us that it is not our social status or our academic credentials that count but our deep insights into the meaning and real goal of living, insights which are part and parcel of our deepest identity.
 

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