Monday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time
(Philippians 2:1-4; Luke 14:12-14)
In the gospels Jesus frequently speaks with hyperbolic language. That is, he exaggerates to convey his message. For example, he says, “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.” This should not be taken literally. It is wrong to do physical harm to a body member unless there is a commensurate reason like saving one’s life. In another place Jesus says that no one can be his disciple unless he or she hates his father and mother. Here again he is not to be taken literally. What about today’s gospel? Are we not to invite friends to the parties that we host?
Of course, it is all right to have parties with friends. The poor and the lame may also be invited, but their presence may cause awkwardness for everyone involved. One might have special dinners for the poor as some churches do weekly or monthly. Alternatively, one may donate time or money to services that feed the poor daily.
Overall, Jesus insists that we live in solidarity with the poor. Solidarity is not a vague feeling of concern for the poor but a firm commitment of support. Nor is it sufficient to define poverty loosely so that the poor are, for example, those who lack meaning in their lives. No, we must give preferential consideration to those who lack the basic necessities of life – food, medical care, housing, etc. At the very least solidarity compels us to respect the poor by shaking their hand and talking with them.