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The Honor Of Your Presence

You hypocrites... give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar -- and to God what belongs to God
Isaiah 45:1,4-6; Psalm 96:1,3-5,7-10; I Thessalonians 1:1-5; Matthew 22:15-21

Sermon Week Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle A

Scripture Summary Matthew 22:18,21

In a story called "By Invitation of Jesus,"1 a wealthy and powerful man, living in Washington, D.C., opens his Bible where he stumbles upon the story of Jesus dining at the house of a leading Pharisee. The man is especially intrigued by Jesus' parting words to His host: "When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not ask your friends, brothers, relations or rich neighbors, for fear they repay your courtesy by inviting you in return. No, when you have a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; that they cannot pay you back means that you are fortunate, because repayment will be made to you when the virtuous rise again" (Lk. 14:12-14).

Somehow, the wealthy man could not get those simple words out of his mind. He wondered what would happen if someone took them seriously. What if someone like himself, after reading those words, should say "Thy will be done" and mean it! He thought about the wonderful dinners and parties that had been given in his home for the "Who's Who" in Washington. He thought about the guest lists that included high government officials and powerful figures in business and finance. He tried to sleep but he could not blot out the steady procession that "tapped its way down the corridors of his soul." There were beggars with trembling lips; sightless eyes that stared straight in front; faces blue with cold; sticks tapping on the pavement; crutches that creaked with the weight of a twisted body. "As he watched them pass, he felt his heart touched ... Only then did he find peace and fall asleep." The next day he ordered a supply of engraved invitations which read: Jesus of Nazareth requests the honor of your presence at a banquet honoring the Sons of Want.

A few days later, the rich man walked through the streets of downtown Washington passing out the invitations to beggars and social outcasts of every description. And they all came to the banquet that night. The gathering was quiet at first, but soon the conversation began to stir [...]

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