First served at the ‘banquet’ | Persons, places and things


By Barb Arland-Fye

One thing that fills my heart is reading and listening to different homilies and reflections on Sunday’s Gospel. This past Sunday featured the passage from Luke (14: 1, 7-14) in which he addresses table fellowship as it relates to places of honor. Coincidentally, my parish hosted a back to school picnic after the Saturday night Mass at Our Lady of the River Catholic Church. Our pastor, Father Apo Mpanda, jokingly referred to it as a “banquet” to connect the meal with the Gospel reading and to encourage attendance!


Deacon Matt Levy proclaimed the Gospel and preached the homily, focusing on the connection between families intentionally sharing a meal together and celebration of the Eucharist. He recalled fond memories of his family traveling from their home in Long Island, New York, to New York City to have a meal with his grandparents. Such intentional gatherings of extended families are rarer these days. His point: families breaking bread together helps instill a desire for Catholics to come together for Eucharist.

Another take on Luke’s Gospel comes from Kerry Weber, an executive editor for America magazine, reflecting on the story of Sara Cummins, stuck with a nonrefundable $30,000 wedding banquet after she and her fiancé called off their wedding. She invited people who were homeless to the banquet, instead.


Weber wrote, “On what would have been her big day, Ms. Cummins, along with her mother, aunts and a few bridesmaids, humbly greeted her guests. On a day when she would have been the center of attention, she directed that attention to the needs of others.” Weber observed, “We must see every Sunday as a celebration that gives us a chance to honor the needs and humanity of others …”

Both the deacon’s homily and Weber’s reflection inspired me, along with Bishop Robert Barron’s homily, which offered yet another perspective. He focused on how people “jockey for position, status, prominence” and how that display of egotism backfires. “So what’s the solution? Stop playing the game. Take the lowest place on purpose. Opt out,” Bishop Barron says.

Another point he makes took flesh in Weber’s reflection about people without homes who dined at what would have been a bride’s banquet. “Invite people to a party who have no capacity whatsoever to invite you in return,” Bishop Barron says, “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.”

After the Saturday night Mass at Our Lady of the River, my son Colin moved quickly ahead of the crowd to be served his meal of hamburger, potato salad, coleslaw, fruit and chips. His autistic mind focused on the physical meal instead of the spiritual meal contained in the Gospel message, which takes time to digest if we are to live it out in our interactions with others.

I could have, but chose not to hold him back, instead focusing my attention on the people who attended Mass with us and whose presence feeds my need to bond with our family of faith. I will continue to reflect on what the Gospel calls me to do, each week, with the inspiring homilies and reflections of others and to figure out how to apply the message in my life and the lives of my family members.

(Contact Barb Arland-Fye at

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