A contemporary hymn rephrases today�s epistle this way:
One Bread One Body One Lord of all
One cup of blessing which we bless.
And we, though many, throughout the earth,
we are one body in this one Lord:
Gentile or Jew, Servant or free, Woman or man, No more!
�We are very members incorporate in the mystical body of Christ� We declare in the prayer of thanksgiving after Holy Communion.
The signs of bread and wine under which Jesus comes to us in the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist signify this deeper meaning of unity. Many grains are ground to make the bread, and many grapes are crushed to make the wine. The fact that all of us partake of the same cup accentuates the unity and brotherhood within the body of Christ. It is imperative to speak of St. Ignatius who was appointed by St. Peter as Bishop of Antioch. He used this analogy even while he was being martyred for Christ as noted by St. Jerome, the great Biblical commentator:
When he was brought condemned to the theatre, and heard the roaring of the beasts which were to devour him, he felt a strong eagerness to suffer, even as he himself put on record: “I am Christ’s wheat; let the teeth of wild beasts be my mill, that I may be ground up in such wise as to become good bread unto Christ.”
We hear the same echoed by Paul, the apostle of Christ, to declare that all members of the Body of Christ have the right to the same dignity and honor of being a follower of Christ. Jesus counted everyone as another person in whom the fullness of God dwells.
In today�s gospel, Jesus takes the occasion of a dinner invitation and works the miracle for the man who had dropsy. 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.
The first parable, on the One Invited to the Wedding Feast (verses 7-11), is addressed to Christians as those who are invited to the feast of the Lord’s Supper. Irrespective of social status and importance, we come to the Eucharist as brothers and sisters of equal standing before God “Our Father.” The Letter of James reports and condemns a situation where Christians “make distinctions” in the Christian assembly:
If a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves? (James 2:2-4).
The second parable, on the One Giving a Great Dinner (verses 12-14), is addressed to Christians as those who invite others to the feast of the Lord’s Supper.
When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind (verses 12-13).
In this second part of his teaching Jesus goes beyond leveling out the distinctions and calls for preferential treatment of the poor and the disabled among us. Hence, there is no time nor hour when we cannot reach out to the other. As co-members of this body of Christ, we need to feel for the other: Laugh with others while they are happy, cry with others while they are sad.
Today�s miracle is proof that Jesus honors humanity more than the laws that are set to safeguard. Jesus reiterates His kingdom�s values once again: In His kingdom there will not be discrimination: a service rendered in humble submission to God�s holy will, will gain the greatest merit. For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. (Lk 14:11)