Luk 14:1 And it came to pass, when Jesus went into the house of one of the Pharisees, on the sabbath day, that they watched him. Apparently our Lord and others had been invited to eat there (verse7).
Jesus went into the house of one of the Pharisees. “To do them service,” says Titus Bostrus, “Christ makes Himself their friend, and, as it were, one of their household,” for “although He knew the malice of the Pharisees, yet He became their guest that He might benefit by His words and miracles those who were present, and teach them the lawfulness of healing on the Sabbath, and the respective duties of entertainers and guests.”
Luk 14:7 And he spoke a parable also to them that were invited, marking how they chose the first seats at the table, saying to them:
And he spoke a parable also to them that were invited, i.e. He taught, under the similitude of a man seeking the highest place at a feast, that we must beware of every kind of ambition. For sin continues to be sin, although the manner of sinning be changed.
Marking how they chose the first seats at the table. For as teachers of the Law, they considered themselves entitled to the highest honour, and fought for precedence as eagerly as now-a-days ladies of rank and men of small brains.
This is a kind of introduction to the parable, and indicates the occasion on which it was spoken, and the persons against whom it was directed.
Luk 14:8 When thou art invited to a wedding, sit not down in the first place, lest perhaps one more honourable than thou be invited by him:
Luk 14:9 And he that invited thee and him, come and say to thee: Give this man place. And then thou begin with shame to take the lowest place.
When thou art invited to a wedding, sit not down in the first place. For when the master of the house takes your place from you to give it to a more honourable guest, those who sit next in order will not give way to your ambition, and you will begin with shame to go down from the highest to the lowest room. Do not unduly exalt thyself, lest some one, offended by thy insolence, humble it and lay it low.
Luk 14:10 But when thou art invited, go, sit down in the lowest place; that when he who invited thee cometh, he may say to thee: Friend, go up higher. Then shalt thou have glory before them that sit at table with thee.
Go, sit down in the lowest place. The master of the house usually assigned to each guest his place at the table, a duty formerly discharged by the “ruler of the feast,” regard being had to each one’s age and social standing. Thus Joseph’s brethren “sat before him, the first-born according to his birthright, and the youngest according to his youth” Gen 43:33. In this verse, Christ makes evident allusion to the saying of Solomon, “Put not forth thyself in the presence of the king,” &c. (Prov 25:6-7). Titus very justly remarks, that “a wise man, however deserving he may be of the highest place, so little affects it, as to give it up to others of his own accord. Wherefore a mind modest and content with its own lot is a great and a glorious gift.”
Then shalt thou have glory. Christ teaches that if we would acquire glory and greatness, we must fly from them and be humble; for men hate the proud and seek to humiliate them, but make much of the modest and meek; the true glory is that which is given, not that which is sought: furthermore, God has decreed by an eternal law that the humble should be exalted, but that the mighty should be put down from their seat. Wherefore, the proud, if they are wise, will humble themselves, that they may have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with them. Knowing that if they seek the most honourable places, they will excite envy, and men will strive, whether rightly or wrongly, to humiliate them.
Hear what the wise man says, “The greater thou art, the more humble thyself, and thou shalt find favour before the Lord.” (Ecclus 3:20.)
This precept of Christ, or rather this wise dogma, was recognised and taught by the Gentile philosophers. So Plutarch introduces Thales thus sharply rebuking the pride of Alexidemus, who, because he was the son of Thrasybulus had rushed from the banqueting hall at seeing others seated above him: “Fearest thou lest thy place at table shall bring thee glory or obscurity after the manner of the stars, which, as the Egyptians say, wax and wane according to the places wherein they rise or set? Thou art not so wise as the man, who, when the leader assigned him the lowest place in a chorus, said, Thou hast done well in having discovered a means of making even a position such as this honourable. For he was of opinion that a man is not distinguished by his position, but rather the position by the man.”
Honour, like the shadow cast by the body, follows him that flee from it, but flees from him that follows it.
Symbolically: Members of religious orders, according to the words of Christ, “sit down in the lowest place.” For they who have kept nothing, but given up all, even their very will, have no lower place to which they can betake themselves. Here they are at rest, for their humility is not limited, like that of other men, to this or that action, but is life-long; for it is a part of their profession which embraces their whole life.
Luk 14:11 Because every one that exalteth himself shall be humbled: and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
Everyone that exalteth himself shall be humbled, &c., both by God and man, often in this life, always in the life to come. This verse explains the meaning and scope of the parable. See S. Matt 23:12.
Luk 14:12 And he said to him also that had invited him: When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends nor thy brethren nor thy kinsmen nor thy neighbours who are rich; lest perhaps they also invite thee again, and a recompense be made to thee.
And he said to him also that had invited him, i.e. to the chief Pharisee mentioned in the first verse, whose hospitality Christ recompensed by the spiritual banquet of ghostly counsel and advice. This man, says the Gloss, seems to have invited his guests in order that he in turn might be entertained by them.
When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, &c. Christ counselled this as the more perfect way. He did not command it as of necessity. For it is lawful, nay, meritorious, for us to invite our friends, if it be done out of friendship and kindness. Whence Bede says, “Brethren then, and friends, and the rich are not forbidden, as though it were a crime, to entertain one another, but this, like all the other necessary intercourse among men, is shown to fail in meriting the reward of ever lasting life,” unless, as I have said, such entertainment springs from a higher motive of brotherly love or charity.
Lest perhaps they also invite thee again. Like worldly men are wont to do from gratitude or else avarice, for “to be hospitable to those who will make a return, is,” says S. Ambrose, “but a form of avarice.”
And a recompense be made to thee by man, and this prove worthless and transient. If you regard this alone, you exclude the spiritual recompense from God and deprive yourself of it; if you look for both you will receive both, but both lessened, for the one lessens and as it were interferes with the other; but if you regard the divine alone, and only admit or rather bear with the human recompence because it is offered you, you will receive the divine whole and undiminished.
Luk 14:13 But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame and the blind.
“The maimed,” α̉ναπήζους, the cripple, the mutilated, i.e. those wanting in body or mind. S. Chrysostom assigns the reason. “If ye invite the poor, God will be your debtor. For the humbler the brother is, so much the more does Christ come through him and visit us. For he who entertains a great man does it often from an interested motive or from vainglory. But thou sayest, the poor man is unclean and filthy. Wash him and make him sit with thee at table. If he has dirty garments, give him clean ones. If thou will not receive him in a quiet chamber, at least admit him where thy servants are. If thou art not willing that he should sit at meat with thee, send him a dish from thy table.”
Following this counsel, S. Gregory had often twelve beggars at his table, and therefore was rewarded by receiving Christ Himself in the guise of a poor man. S. Louis of France also, not content with entertaining 120 beggars at his table daily, and on feast days 200, frequently waited upon them himself, and even washed their feet. In like manner acted S. Louis the Minorite, Bishop of Toulouse, following the example of his uncle S. Louis; S. Hedwig, Duchess of Poland, and her niece S. Elizabeth, the daughter of Andrew king of Hungary, who fed 900 poor every day, receiving a rich reward in divine favour and grace.
Mystically: Origen says, “He who shuns vainglory calls to a spiritual banquet the poor, that is, the ignorant, that he may enrich them; the weak, that is, those with offended consciences, that he may heal them; the lame, that is, those who have wandered from reason, that he may make their paths straight; the blind, that they may discern the truth.”
Luk 14:14 And thou shalt be blessed, because they have not wherewith to make thee recompense: for recompense shall be made thee at the resurrection of the just.
And thou shalt be blessed, for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just, when, says the Interlinear, the entertainers of the poor will enter into blessedness.
The neediness of the guests purifies the intention of the host, who expects no return from them, but acts solely out of love to God. Wherefore God, who considers that what is done to the poor is done unto Him, will grant him a bounteous reward, even the everlasting delights of the heavenly banquet, according to the promise, “and I appoint to you . . . that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom.” S. Luke 22:29. Hence S. Chrysostom says, “Let us be troubled not when we receive no return of a kindness, but when we do; for if we have received it, we shall receive nothing more; but if man does not repay us, God, out of love for whom we have acted, will be our recompense.”