Saturday, October 30, 2010

Companions at the Table

October 30, 2010
Saturday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

My eager expectation and hope is that I shall not be put to shame in any way, but that with all boldness, now as always, Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me life is Christ, and death is gain. Philippians 1:20-21

“When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor. A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him, and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place.” Luke 14:8-9

As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God.
My being thirsts for God, the living God. When can I go and see the face of God?
My tears have been my food day and night, as they ask daily, “Where is your God?”
Those times I recall as I pour out my soul,
When I went in procession with the crowd, I went with them to the house of God,
Amid loud cries of thanksgiving, with the multitude keeping festival. Psalm 42:2-25

Why were banquets so important to Jesus? Don’t forget that his dear cousin John the Baptist’s execution was sealed in the deal made by Herod at the banquet for his birthday. Talking about banquets may also have been a popular image in Biblical Palestine where life was not easy and attending a banquet was probably a very infrequent occurrence. So the aspiration to be invited to a banquet might be a very attention-getting story for Jesus to use in his preaching and teaching.

Today, the experience might be like attending a sporting event, concert or show for your favorite team or performer. When you arrive at the Verizon Center, Nissan Pavilion or the Kennedy Center, you rush down to the front row for that Wizards game, Lady GaGa concert or performance of Phantom of the Opera. However, just before the proverbial curtain goes up, the usher taps you on the shoulder and has some VIP (mayor, senator, congress-member, etc.) whom he wants to place in your coveted seat. The curtain goes down on your ability to boast to your friends about seeing up-close and personal John Wall torch the nets for 30 points, Lady GaGa torch the audience or the Phantom torch the theatre.

Place yourself instead inside the picture of this imaginary banquet painted by Jesus. Image your eager self invited to this banquet and finding upon arrival that the best seats in the house have not already been taken. You not only would be pleased to be there, you would rush to those seats of honor. Imagine the similar crushing emotion when asked to give up that seat to a scribe or Pharisee who arrived later than you. The best course of action: Take the lowest place and enjoy the company of your companions. Then, if given an honor, step up and accept it in the same spirit of humility.

It also is interesting to note that this banquet story immediately precedes the story of the great banquet to which many were invited but refused the invitation. How many times do we send our regrets because work gets in the way of fellowship? Certainly, we do not want to be counted among those who are a “no-show” at the banquet ordered up in honor of Jesus of Nazareth.

You have the ability to vicariously participate in a banquet held in the honor of Jesus of Nazareth with your fruitful labor.

As you know may know, many Cursillo companions at table also are involved in a prison ministry known as Kairos. What is Kairos? The mission of the Kairos Prison Ministry is to bring Christ's love and forgiveness to all incarcerated individuals, their families and those who work with them, and to assist in the transition of becoming a productive citizen.

Why support Kairos? In addition to the fact that is one of the Corporal Acts of Mercy, there is a fiscal reason: 95 percent of all incarcerated men, women and youth are ultimately released. Most move back into the community. Their success is greatly multiplied when they have a religious experience while incarcerated.

If ex-offenders do not go back to prison we are all safer, we save an incredible amount of money and the community is healthier! Recent studies indicate that Kairos prison ministry reduces the return to prison rate by 70%. This saves the taxpayers millions of dollars every year.

Recently, The Virginia Department of Corrections revealed that in those prisons which have an active KAIROS program, violent incidents (inmate to inmate or inmate to guard) are decreased by 80 percent. This also has helped drop the attrition rate of guards in those prisons by 50 percent. That also helps save our tax dollars in addition to making the prisons a safer environment.

How can YOU help? In addition to your prayers for the next Kairos weekend, you are being asked to bake cookies. Yes that is right "cookies."

Cookies are a highlight on the retreat where the team introduces these men to the Lord many times for the first time. They are an inducement for the prisoners to come to the retreat and it works. But they need a whole lot of cookies: One of our Cursillistas has been asked to bring 100-120 dozen with him to meet their needs. So, YOU can help by bringing any number of homemade cookies to St. Mary of Sorrows next weekend -- Saturday and Sunday, Nov 6 & 7 – and placing them in the marked box in the foyer of the Parish Center. Your parish also may have people active in Kairos to whom you can drop off cookies.

Directions on what cookies are allowed and how to package them are at If you have children or grandchildren in either Confirmation or high school Civics, this is a easy way for them to get those needed service hours--a win-win!