Luke’s Gospel finds Jesus at dinner parties:  at the table of Mary and Martha, at the house of Simon the Pharisee, and here again at a Pharisee’s home.  In a few weeks, at the table of Zacchaeus. These meals are signs of the Kingdom.  We grow in faith there, hearts are changed, like at the Last Supper or Emmaus.  We learn to sort out our relationships and roles, like in this story.  We are encouraged to be inclusive, toward one another and toward outsiders, the marginal.  All this happens because Christ is powerfully present at the table.  We even come to forgive.

How do you feel attending a dinner?  With family, I can find my way.  With new people, I wait to see what happens.  I don’t want to find myself next to somebody I don’t know.  I like place cards.  It’s so easy at Church, that Sunday table, where I can hug the wall or sit with friends or fade away at the back. So yes, I manage dinners to suit myself, my prevailing mood.

Somehow the expectation of Jesus, inviting me, is that I’m going to meet persons from other parts of life, with needs I can start to understand, an immigrant even, a disabled child, a widow in grief, the stranger. I am called  to notice even who is not here, to wonder about that, to reach out.  It’s risky.  But there it is, Sunday after Sunday, dining in the Kingdom, letting our lives change, becoming whole as we are gathered and fed.

—Fr. Richard Bollman, S.J., a Jesuit of the Chicago-Detroit province, has  been the long-time pastor at St. Robert Bellarmine Chapel of Xavier University, Cincinnati.  He now works with Xavier’s Center for Mission and Identity.