22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Ages 3-6): Sitting with Jesus at the Table
(Adults, you could begin by reading the Gospel to your child.)
In the Gospel for this Sunday, Jesus eats a meal at the home of one of the important people in the town. Many people gather together to eat. They have a discussion about where everyone should sit. Everyone wants a good seat. Can we guess whom they want to sit beside?
Jesus tells the people a parable—he asks them to imagine being invited to a great feast celebrating love. Who could the host of this great feast be?
We know how much Jesus loves. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, takes such good care of his sheep. He gives all of himself to them. It seems that he loves them! Perhaps, then, Jesus is the host who celebrates love.
Jesus tells the people what to do when they are invited to the feast.
when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place
What does Jesus mean, "the lowest place"? Often, whenever families have large gatherings of people over for dinner, they set up a "kids table." A lower table set off to the side of the adults' table, sometimes in a different room—all the children eat their dinner there together. The kids table often has quite a bit of fun. Children laugh the whole time, telling jokes and playing games. No one tells them to quiet down.
Sitting at the kids table can be fun, but looking over to the adults at their table, we wonder what we are missing. We know we do not belong at that table where our own mums and dads, aunts and uncles, grandparents and loved ones are eating. That is not such a good feeling.
Telling the parable, Jesus asks the people to imagine a very long table at the feast. We can imagine this table, too. He tells them to choose the lowest place—the place at the furthest end, away from the host. Why? They want to sit beside him.
The host sits at one end of the table, far away from the people at the lowest place. At the lowest place, the people cannot see the host very well—it would be like being way far away at the kids table. They might not feel like they belong near the host. That is not such a good feeling.
But what does the host say?
when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honoured
The host calls them, "Friend"! They do belong to him! He takes them up to his end of the table to sit with him. Perhaps they even get to sit on his lap! Sitting with Jesus, what could they see? They would know when someone at the table needed something and could help bring food and drink to them. They could help him.
The smallest ones, in the lowest places—Jesus knows they are there. They are his friends and he wants them near him. He celebrates his love for them.