Monday of Week 31 of Ordinary Time – Gospel

Commentary on Luke 14:12-14

After giving the scribes and Pharisees advice on how (not) to choose a place at a banquet, Jesus goes on to teach his host what to do when he holds a dinner. He should not invite family members, relatives, friends and the influential rich from whom he can expect to get similar invitations in return.

Rather he should go out of his way to invite “the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind” and be happy that these people can do nothing by way of repayment. This will be a proof of the genuineness of his generosity. Sharing meals with friends is a lovely thing, but Jesus is making the point that our mutual entertainment should not be at the expense of those who do not have enough to eat. It will be a real act of love, and not be a form of self-seeking and self-aggrandisement or mutual back scratching in a never-ending entertainment circus.

It reminds us of what Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount about loving those who love us:

Do not even the gentiles do the same? (Matt 5:47)

There is no real virtue there. In fact, it can be a way of using people to our own advantage. It also reminds us of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. In such circumstances, uncaring self-indulgence can in no way be justified.

We might remark here, of course, that there is no such thing as pure altruism, that is, an action that is done purely for others with absolutely nothing for self. Everything we do, we do ultimately for ourselves. We have no choice but to seek our own good; to act otherwise would be quite silly and even wrong. It all depends on how and why we do it.

A person can seek self by using, manipulating, and exploiting others for one’s own gain. But, a person can use all their energies for the good of others, and in doing so, there is a feeling of satisfaction in doing the right thing. Even one’s life can be sacrificed as the only way of satisfying self. For instance, a mother may not hesitate to sacrifice her life to save a child in danger. Not to do so would lead to a situation she might find difficult to live with for the rest of her life.

We do have to seek our own interests. We can do that at the expense of others, or we can realise that it is by sharing what we have with others in need that we become enriched in a very special way.

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