In the past when I read this passage (Lk 14:7-11), I’d be on cruise control and cruise right on by, putting a check mark in my mind, marking this as being accomplished, nothing to be concerned about. Being Catholic has changed the way I read. I love the Lectionary because it is like bullets: This is Jesus saying, “This is what I want you to focus on today; this is important.” Many times I might be so thick-headed I can’t get much out of it, but sometimes—oh, what a blessing! What is it?
I’ve always interpreted this as the men trying to get a seat closest to the head of the table. That is not in my character makeup; therefore, I would pass this passage by—probably, subconsciously patting myself on the back. However, on second thought, is this still a passage for me and those like me? Absolutely. Verse 10 is the powder keg: “When you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher’.” We are invited through Baptism. The “lowest place” is the place of the slave. We balk at that.
Jesus is the host. Jesus left the place of honor, that at the right hand of the Father, and became man. He came not to be served but to serve, to be a slave to all. Remember when James and John approached Jesus and requested to be seated at His right and left hand? What did He reply? “He who desires to be first must become the [slave] of all.” This slavery is not forced slavery, but it is a slavery of love, where one is attempting to elevate everyone above himself, making himself the least important.
This is an impossibility for sinful man. It can only come about through prayer, asking our Lord—especially through Mary—to make us a slave to all. Many people cannot bring themselves to even pray for this, but this is what our Lord is telling us when He tells us to “go and sit in the lowest place.” Then, when the host, Jesus, comes, He may say to you, “Friend, go up higher.” “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” (Mt 11:29). He became a slave for all; so should we.
This theological reflection courtesy of the parishioners of St Paul Catholic Church in Pensacola, Florida: stpaulcatholic.net