A nurse told the story that in the second month of nursing school, the professor gave a pop quiz. She was a conscientious student and breezed through the questions, until reaching the last one. "What is the first name of the women who cleans the school?" She had seen the cleaning woman several times. She was tall, dark-haired and in her fifties. But knowing her name? Surely this was some kind of joke. She handed in the paper, leaving the answer blank. Then another student asked if the last question would count toward the grade. "Absolutely," said the professor. "In your careers you will meet many people. All are significant. Each deserves your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say ‘hello’." She never forgotten that lesson. She also learned that her name is Dorothy.
As we listen to the gospel parable today, it would almost seem as if Jesus is joking. It is not his style to offer advice on how to manipulate a situation to make sure you get recognition among others and get moved up to a place of higher honor. He begins the parable by saying, “When you are invited by someone to the wedding banquet.” The wedding banquet is his favorite image for what the kingdom of heaven will be like. And as the parable story unfolds, we realize that he is not talking about seating charts and who gets to sit closest to the front. His challenge is that we make honored guest of the most unlikely, anyone who will not have the means to pay us back for our kindness. When it comes to the banquet Jesus is preparing for us, all are significant.
All are significant. In our own family, it is easy to take those we love for granted. We let little things become more important than they are and so we hold grudges and set conditions on our willingness to forgive. We have opportunities to express our love, and we let it pass undone. Those who are most important often do not know that we believe they are most important.
All are significant. As a new day begins we will meet others. With some we automatically interact, because they are coworkers or friends. Others will be unknown to us, but they care for us at a restaurant, or a store, or at the doctor. And it is easy to rush along, acting important, being busy, expressing by our attitude that we cannot be bothered. We show that their help is expected and we deserve it. A smile, treating each individual as a friend and not a servant, simply giving away a little of our time as we give them our attention – these little gifts cost nothing, yet show that we value each person as a fellow child of God.
All are significant. The honored guests at Jesus’ banquet are those who are the weakest and those forgotten by society. There are people who are alone and forgotten sitting with us in church today. There are families who have come to our city looking for a better life who instead find they are living on the edge, wondering only about how to provide for one more day. We see that suspicion and resentment often makes it impossible for everyone to feel blessed by the opportunities available in our city. And we can’t take every homeless person in, or provide for every hungry child, or erase all suffering. But we carry a great responsibility.
This weekend the entire parish is being challenged to look BEYOND BOUNDARIES. The list of those who need to be welcomed into the banquet is endless. As we consider all the blessings and opportunities we enjoy personally and as a community, we have to do something. All are significant in the eyes of Jesus. And if we let him, Jesus will show us that is possible to look beyond our comfortable limits and see there is so much more we can do to do our part in welcoming all to come to his banquet.
By the way. You see him each week making sure everything is cared for. His name is Hector.
—Fr. Stephen W Bierschenk