Jesus had been invited to eat by one of the important Pharisees of the place1 and, once again, he uses the image of the banquet to convey to us an important teaching about what we are to do for others and how to do it. Addressing the one who had invited him, the Lord said: When you give a meal or a supper, do not call your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your rich neighbors, lest they also return your invitation and it be a reward to you. On the other hand, Jesus immediately indicates whom to invite: the poor, the crippled and the lame, the blind.... And he gives the reason for this choice: you will be blessed, because they do not have to repay you; you will be rewarded at the resurrection of the just.
The friends, the relatives, the rich neighbors will be obliged by our invitation to correspond with another, at least of the same category or even better. What was invested in the supper has already borne its immediate fruit. This can be an upright human work, even a very good one if there is rectitude of intention and the ends are noble (friendship, apostolate, to unite family ties...), but, in itself, it is little different from what the pagans can do. It is a human way of acting: If you love those who love you, what merit will you have, for sinners also love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what merit have you, for sinners also do the same...3 The Lord will say on another occasion. The Christian's charity goes further, for it includes and goes beyond the natural, the merely human: he gives out of love for the Lord, and without expecting anything in return. The poor, the maimed... they can give nothing back because they have nothing. So it is easy to see Christ in others. The image of the banquet is not reduced exclusively to material goods; it is an image of all that man can offer to others: appreciation, joy, optimism, company, attention....
It is related in the life of St. Martin that while the Saint was in a dream, it seemed to him that he saw Christ dressed in half of the Roman officer's cloak that he had given to a poor man a short time before. He looked attentively at the Lord and recognized his clothes. At the same time he heard Jesus, in a voice he would never forget, say to the angels who accompanied him: "Martin, who is only a catechumen, has covered me with this garment". And immediately, the Saint remembered other words of Jesus: "As often as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me. This vision filled Martin with encouragement and peace, and he was immediately baptized.
We should not do good expecting in this life a reward, nor an immediate fruit. Here we must be generous (in the apostolate, in almsgiving, in works of mercy...) without expecting to receive anything for it. Charity does not seek anything, charity is not ambitious6. To give, to sow, to give ourselves even if we see no fruit, no correspondence, no gratitude, no apparent personal benefit whatsoever. The Lord teaches us in this parable to give liberally, without calculating any retribution. We will have it in abundance.