Sirarch 3:17-20, 28-29, Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24, Luke 14:1, 7-14
On the Gospel, Preferential Option for the Poor
Joseph de Veuster was a Belgian missionary priest working among the islanders of Honolulu. His bishop had trouble finding a priest to work in the leper settlement of Molokai. Joseph, better known as Father Damien, volunteered to go and work in the "living graveyard that was Molokai." His solidarity with the lepers was so complete that he contracted the disease himself and died at the age of forty-nine in service to the poorest and most abandoned. Some of his contemporaries accused him of imprudence and foolhardiness. Today, however, he is recognized worldwide as a hero of the faith: Damien the Leper.
Father Damien made a total life commitment to the poor long before the church recognized the preferential option for the poor as a pillar of the church's social teaching. The Gospels teach us that as Christians we should give priority to the poor in the way we administer and dispense our resources. This is what we see in today's gospel reading. Some people see today's gospel as Jesus teaching table etiquette and good manners in choosing seats when invited to a dinner. But when we try to read it through the eyes of the early Christians whose assembly was mainly to share in the feast of the Eucharist, we begin to see that there is much more than etiquette involved here. Jesus is teaching the basic Christian virtues of humility and solidarity with the poor. And he does this in two stages using two parables.