"When you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled,
the lame, the blind..."
Alphonsus Rodriguez, a Jesuit brother, was merely the doorman at the college. It was one of the most humble assignments he could have. All day long Alphonsus received any visitors to the college of Montesión off the coast of Spain. He ran errands, carried messages and tracked down other Jesuits when guests came to see them. It could have been dull, but Alphonsus had been hollowed out earlier in his life by so much pain. His father, a cloth merchant, had died suddenly and Alphonsus left college to help his mother run the family business. He later married but when his wife and all three of their children died, he was devastated. His business struggled and finally collapsed under the burden of heavy taxes. In his deep sadness, he prayed to know God's will for him. He finally joined the Jesuits but was not recommended for the priesthood because of his health. So he became a doorman.
What humility it must have taken to greet important visitors who always wanted someone else. He was probably ignored as a "mere doorman" when wealthy families arrived to drop off their sons as new students. But rather than see his job as a tedium, Brother Alphonsus saw it as a ministry. With every knock, he envisioned the Lord waiting on the other side of the door and tried to welcome each visitor with warmth and hospitality. Over the years, his reputation for holiness grew. Young students came to see him for advice. He had a deep impact on some of them, including young Peter Claver, a student who went on to become a Jesuit priest famous for ministering to the slaves off the coast of what is now Columbia. It was only after Alphonsus died that his journals were discovered, reflecting a deep mystical prayer life with God.
Brother Alphonsus, in his humble service, seems to have heeded the lesson Jesus gives us in today's gospel. As he dines at the home of a Pharisee, Jesus advises us not to invite our friends or wealthy neighbors over for dinner because good manners means they will be required to invite us back in return. Instead Jesus encourages us to welcome into our hearts those who might be unthinkable as guests - "the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind" - the ultimate outcasts of society. They have no means to thank us.
Who in our own lives are the outcast or the overlooked? Whom do I ignore or dismiss in my own life? Perhaps my issue is not with those who serve me, as much as those with whom I disagree - those whose values are different than mine. Can I, like Alphonsus, welcome everyone into my life? Can I accept with humility the idea that I might be wrong or that another point of view might be valid? Can I be humble enough to set aside my own needs to care for the needs of others? What young person or future saint might be inspired by my humility and generosity?
Lord, my arrogance and independence gets in the way sometimes. Please, I beg of you, help me to pray for and embrace the humility that will open up deeper ways of communicating with you. Let me invite those people into my life that I might recoil from and let me love and respect them as you do. Help me to see you in each person I meet.
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