For the past three years, Catholics have accepted the invitation of Pope Francis to join with other Christians across the planet in celebrating the Season of Creation. This extended celebration of creation was launched in 1989 by the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople and joined progressively by other Christian communities. It begins with the World Day of Prayer for Creation on September 1 and concludes on the Feast of St Francis of Assisi. Over this period, we might reflect on what is happening to our planet and pay particular attention to the eighth work of mercy, “care of our common home”. As a spiritual work, care of our common home calls us to “grateful contemplation of God’s world”. As a corporal work, it calls us to “simple daily gestures” that create a more sustainable and equitable world.
Today’s gospel calls us to redress imbalances in the human community, imbalances that have ultimately affected the earth itself. Jesus is under scrutiny as he dines in the home of a leading Pharisee. In Luke’s gospel, the Pharisees are generally depicted as hostile to Jesus. This portrait reflects the situation of the time the gospels are being written when Pharisaic Judaism and Christian Judaism had parted ways. At the time of Jesus’ ministry, the Pharisees were a minority group of well-respected experts in the Law. Despite the hostility from his host, Jesus is not deterred from expressing his opinion and as usual he does so in the form of a story that comes from the experience of his hearers. He first addresses the guests and then the host. The guests are clearly not from the lower echelons of society. They are people who receive invitations to wedding banquets where places of honour are reserved for the most distinguished guests. Jesus appeals to their fairly normal fear of being shamed before others. He also reminds them of the principle of reversal that operates in God’s kin-dom where those who seek the first places find themselves last and the last are first.
Jesus’ advice for his host is more removed from first century Palestinian experience than is his advice for the guests: do not invite friends, family and wealthy neighbours; invite the destitute and those with disabilities. In other words, invite those considered unclean by observant Jews rather than those who have the capacity to return your hospitality. This was a confronting suggestion in that culture. It embodied the inclusive values of the kin-dom vision that Jesus had preached from the outset. It is confronting for us in our times. It is easy to welcome like-minded people into our land and our homes. It is not so easy to be open to those who see the world differently from us. We are invited to look on them with love rather than hostility and to secure a place for them in our hearts and in our common home.