Many times in the Gospels we encounter Jesus speaking in hyperbole, meaning that he greatly exaggerates his examples to make a point of faith. We can think of when he said, "If you had faith the size of a mustard seed you could say to this tree, 'be uprooted and cast into the sea´ and it would obey you."
However, today as Jesus sits and dines in the home of one of the leading Pharisees Jesus says to him: “When you give a lunch or dinner don’t invite your friends or relatives who will feel obliged to repay you. Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind.” This was real problematic for the Pharisees because all these people would be unclean in a spiritual sense. Bring these folks in the house and you’re contaminated spiritually.
After this in St. Luke he gives the Parable of the Great Banquet which is an image of all who God desires to invite to the heavenly banquet and into the kingdom. In the Gospel today I don’t think Jesus was speaking with hyperbole. He was most likely speaking literally. He had a great heart for the poor and those who suffered physically and they need to be cared for. The Kingdom has come among us so the woks of mercy and compassion are called for. There’s no way they can repay you or the host, but you will be repaid in the resurrection of the righteous. That is in the General Resurrection.
When we were Novices in our religious formation we used say amongst ourselves. “Yea were working with the poor, but if we brought some back to the dinner table it would cause a ruckus.
When we look out across our nation and world, we see many blind, crippled, lame and poor. Some of them living in chaos on the streets in our great cities. These are the people Jesus said to invite to lunch or dinner. He wasn’t speaking with hyperbole.
Fr. Patrick Daugherty, C.P