On the gospel of Luke 14:1, 7-14.
The Pharisees were watching Jesus closely or even scrupulously (παρατηρεω). The people in power in Jesus’ time were eager to catch Jesus doing something that was unlawful, and subsequently to condemn Him. This was despite the many miracles he worked and the power of his teaching. Indeed because of these they saw Jesus as a threat to their power and influence over the people. His teaching was a challenge to their view of God and religion. They watch Jesus captiously, not wanting to learn from him, but to find something to condemn. Each time His opponents try to catch Jesus out they end up silenced by the way Jesus responds to them, they cannot refute divine wisdom with earthly wisdom, no matter how hard they try.
This is something the Western world is very familiar with, especially here in Ireland. The focus at this present time is most often on the mistakes of the Church in order to discredit her, and in doing so to indirectly discredit God Himself. The good that has come, and comes, from the Church is ignored in order to promote an agenda which endeavours to silence the Gospel message and to promote and maintain power structures which are of this world.
“[Jesus] marked how they chose the places of honor” (Luk 14:7 RSV) and tells a parable to illustrate the point. While the Pharisees are judging Jesus and the others with him (by weighing up who is sitting where), Jesus tries to teach them the way of humility and love, not of strife and contempt.
God is calling us into community, calling us to communion, not separation or segmentation. Therefore Jesus teaches us not to look for recognition and reward, but for love of neighbour instead; “when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luk 14:14 RSV)
Reward comes when we follow the way of the Gospel, in the next life “at the resurrection of the just” (Luk 14:14 RSV) but also now as “when your host comes he may say to you, `Friend, go up higher’” (Luk 14:10 RSV) and “you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you.” (Luk 14:10 RSV)
If we seek our own individual honour we separate ourselves from God, closing ourselves to community. But when we give up our own lives and follow Jesus we will find life: “For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luk 14:11 RSV)
It is therefore important to watch Jesus in a humble way and to learn from Him, to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, to contemplate His face as Pope Benedict has encouraged us so often. Not as the Pharisees did, but to watch in order to learn from the real Master: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Mat 11:29 RSV)