“When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your kinsmen or rich neighbours, lest they also invite you in return, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the aimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repai you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just”. (Luke, 14, 12-14)
The Christmas Lunch with the poor is a tradition of the Community of Sant’Egidio since 1982, when a small group of poor people was welcomed at the banquet table in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere. There were about 20 people invited: some of our elderly friends of the neighborhood and some homeless people we had gotten to know from the streets of Rome.
More than 30 years have passed since that first Christmas lunch. From that moment on, the banquet table has widened, and from Trastevere it has reached many parts of the world. The Christmas lunch has truly become a World-Wide Feast. The feast has widened year after year, like a beneficial contagion, and has reached many countries of the South of the world. In 2014 181,000 people gathered for the Christmas lunch in more than 600 cities and 78 countries of the world. The joy of the Christmas lunch was also brought to 18,000 prisoners in 96 prisons.
The Christmas feast takes place everywhere, but above all where there is sorrow. In churches, in institutions for the elderly, for children, for handicapped people, in prisons, at hospitals, and also in the streets. Because, the sense of Christmas is to bring the feast also to the darkest and coldest corners as well as to the most dispersed and forgotten places.
Christmas is somehow a miracle: the miracle of the smiling faces of many exhausted people, the miracle of seemingly nonexistent resources, but which can instead be found.
It’s a miracle for which it’s worth knocking on every door to collect all that is necessary. Asking everybody for help – friends, colleagues, shop owners, people in the street – enables the Community to find all the goods to set this great table of friendship every year.
But the miracle is also the fact that members of all religions can find their place at this feast, helping and being helped at the same time, all their hearts believing in the world salvation through faith, peace and harmony among human beings.