Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading 1 SIR 3:17-18, 20, 28-29
and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts.
Humble yourself the more, the greater you are,
and you will find favor with God.
What is too sublime for you, seek not,
into things beyond your strength search not.
The mind of a sage appreciates proverbs,
and an attentive ear is the joy of the wise.
Water quenches a flaming fire,
and alms atone for sins.
Responsorial Psalm PS 68:4-5, 6-7, 10-11
The just rejoice and exult before God;
they are glad and rejoice.
Sing to God, chant praise to his name;
whose name is the LORD.
R. God, in your goodness, you have made a home for the poor.
The father of orphans and the defender of widows
is God in his holy dwelling.
God gives a home to the forsaken;
he leads forth prisoners to prosperity.
R. God, in your goodness, you have made a home for the poor.
A bountiful rain you showered down, O God, upon your inheritance;
you restored the land when it languished;
your flock settled in it;
in your goodness, O God, you provided it for the needy.
R. God, in your goodness, you have made a home for the poor.
Reading 2 HEB 12:18-19, 22-24A
Brothers and sisters:
You have not approached that which could be touched
and a blazing fire and gloomy darkness
and storm and a trumpet blast
and a voice speaking words such that those who heard
begged that no message be further addressed to them.
No, you have approached Mount Zion
and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem,
and countless angels in festal gathering,
and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven,
and God the judge of all,
and the spirits of the just made perfect,
and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant,
and the sprinkled blood that speaks more eloquently than that of Abel.
Alleluia MT 11:29AB
Take my yoke upon you, says the Lord,
and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel LK 14:1, 7-14
On a sabbath Jesus went to dine
at the home of one of the leading Pharisees,
and the people there were observing him carefully.
He told a parable to those who had been invited,
noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table.
“When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet,
do not recline at table in the place of honor.
A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him,
and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say,
‘Give your place to this man,’
and then you would proceed with embarrassment
to take the lowest place.
Rather, when you are invited,
go and take the lowest place
so that when the host comes to you he may say,
‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’
Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table.
For every one who exalts himself will be humbled,
but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Then he said to the host who invited him,
“When you hold a lunch or a dinner,
do not invite your friends or your brothers
or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors,
in case they may invite you back and you have repayment.
Rather, when you hold a banquet,
invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind;
blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.
For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
My sisters and brothers in the Lord,
Humility is not easy for any of us. The Scriptures often encourage us to live humbly but we can find ourselves resisting. Today the Scriptures want to teach us more about the gift of this virtue.
The first reading comes from the Book of Sirach, part of the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament, the Jewish Scriptures. It is almost a hymn to humility but also exhorts us to appreciate proverbs and to listen well to others. Anyone who lives in a community, perhaps a family or a parish or even a religious community, can understand how important it is to listen to others. In order to listen to the other person, I must put my own way of thinking and my own thoughts aside so that I can truly understand what the other person is saying.
The second reading today comes from the Letter to the Hebrews. This reading wants us to realize the immense mystery that we encounter in Jesus Christ but also in all of creation and especially in other human beings. We are always approaching God in every moment of our lives. Yes we remain unaware of His presence. He is always with us in Himself, in His creation and in one another. His presence is a devouring fire if we let it be.
The Gospel from Saint Luke gives us a story about a person who goes to a banquet and takes a high place and then is asked to move down. This is simply wisdom: don’t look for the high place because someone greater than you is bound to show up and you will feel a fool. Most of us are not the top people in the world! So we should not act as if we are entitled to the top treatment. We will only get embarrassed. This seems such a simple lesson and a practical one.
At the level of spirituality, we can also begin to think that God must make all things wonderful for us and do as we ask Him in prayer. Life is not that way. God wants to form us so that we truly love and serve others. In order to do that, we must experience our own smallness and come to value our smallness and nothingness. We have numerous examples in the Scripture of those who were humble and were then lifted up—but spiritually. Chief among such people is always Mary, the Mother of Jesus.
If only we will undertake this journey to humility, we will come to know the joys of serving others, of helping others towards God, or being able to see reality with the eyes of God’s love. If it looks a bit scary at first, we must not run away. As we persevere in humility we come to know the deepest love of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Your brother in the Lord,
Monastery of Christ in the Desert https://christdesert.org/about/
Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, August 27, 2016 — “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise” — The Patron Saint of Alcoholics and Married Women — Humility may be the most important virtue
Lectio Divina From The Carmelites
The parable on the choice of place is narrated on a Saturday when Jesus is already in Jerusalem, where the Paschal Mystery will be fulfilled, where the Eucharist of the new Covenant will be celebrated, to which then follows, the encounter with the living one and the entrusting of mission of the disciples which prolongs thus the historical mission of Jesus. The light of the Passover makes all those who are called to represent him as servant, diakonos, within the community, gathered around the table, to see the road that the Lord follows. It is the theme of the guests at table or of joyful living together of Saint Luke. Jesus has realized the most beautiful reality, proclaimed and taught at table in a joyful, sociable frame.
In chapter 14, Luke, with his art of a capable narrator, paints a picture, in which he superimposed two images: Jesus at table defines the face of the new community, convoked around the Eucharistic table. The page is subdivided in two scenes: first, the invitation to dinner in the house of one of the chief Pharisees, on a feast day, Saturday (Lk 14, 15-16), which also concerns the problem of the guests: who will participate at the table of the Kingdom? This is prepared beginning now in the relationship with Jesus, who convokes around himself the persons in the community-Church.
– Saturday a day of feast and of liberation
This is the passage in Luke: “On a Sabbath day he had gone to share a meal in the house of one of the leading Pharisees; and they watched him closely.” (Lk 14, 1). On a feast day Jesus is invited by the one who is responsible for the movement of the observant or Pharisees. Jesus is at table. The first episode takes place in this context: the healing of a man with dropsy prevented by his physical disability to participate at table. Those who are sick in their body are excluded from the community by the observants as the Rule of Qumran says. The meal on Saturday has a festive and sacred character especially for the observant of the Law. In fact, on Saturday, there is a weekly remembrance of Exodus and of the creation. Jesus, precisely on that Saturday gives back freedom and reintegrates in full health the man with dropsy.
He therefore, justifies his gesture before the teachers and the observant of the Law with these words: “Which of you here if his ass or ox falls into a well, will not pull it out on a Sabbath day?”God is interested in persons and not only in the property or possessions of man. Saturday is not reduced to external observance of the sacred rest, but is in favour of man. With this concern turned toward man, is also given the key to define the criteria of convocation in this community symbolized by the table: How to choose the place? Whom to invite and who participates at the end in the Banquet of the Kingdom? The gesture of Jesus is a program: Saturday is made for man. On Saturday he does that which is the fundamental significance of the celebration of the memory of the getting out of Egypt and of creation.
– On the choice of places and of the guests
The criteria to choose the places are not based on precedence, on the roles or the fame or renown, but are inspired on the acts of God who promotes the last ones, “because the one who raises himself up will be humbled and the one who humbles himself will be raised up” (Lk 14, 11). This principle which closes the parable of the new etiquette, that of the turning over of the worldly criteria, refers to God’s action by means of the passive form “will be raised up”. God raises up the little ones and the poor as Jesus has done introducing the man with dropsy, who was excluded, to the table to eat together in the Sabbatical feast .
Then we have the criteria for the choice of guests. The criteria of recommendation and of corporative solidarity are excluded: “Do not invite your friends, or your brothers or your relations or rich neighbours…” “On the contrary, when you have a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind…” (Lk 14, 12.13).
The list begins with the poor, who in Luke’s Gospel are the beneficiaries of the Beatitudes: “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the Kingdom of Heaven”. In the list of the guests the poor are mentioned as the physically disabled, the handicapped, excluded from the confraternity of the Pharisees and from the ritual of the time (cf. 2 Sam 5, 8; Lv 21, 18).
This same list is found in the parable of the great banquet: the poor, the crippled, the blind, the lame, take the place of the respectful guests. (Lk 14, 21).
This second parable on the criteria of choice of the guests is proclaimed with this proclamation: “Then you will be blessed, for they have no means to repay you and so you will be repaid when the upright rise again” (Lk 14, 14), at the end of time when God will manifest his sovereignty communicating eternal life. At this point there is a phrase of one of the invited guests which is like a souvenir between the two small parables and the parable of the great banquet: “Blessed is anyone who will share the meal in the Kingdom of God” (Lk 14, 15). This word which recalls the Beatitude of the Kingdom and the condition to participate in it through the image of the banquet, “to eat the bread”, introduces the parable pf the great banquet in its eschatological meaning. But this final banquet, which is the Kingdom of God and the full communion with Him, is prepared at present by sitting and eating together at the same table. Jesus narrates this parable to interpret the convocation of men with the announcement of the Kingdom of God and through his historical action.
3. The word enlightens me (to meditate)
a) When Jesus was in the house of the Pharisee who had invited him to eat observes how those invited try to get the first places. It is a very common attitude in life, not only when one is at table: each one tries also to get the first place regarding attention and consideration on the part of others. Everyone, beginning by ourselves, we have this experience. But let us pay attention, the words of Jesus which exhort to abstain from seeking the first place are not simply an exhortation of good education; they are a rule of life. Jesus clarifies that it is the Lord to give to each one the dignity and the honour, we are not the ones to give it to ourselves, perhaps claiming our own merits. Like he did in the Beatitudes, Jesus turns over the judgement and the behaviour of this world. The one who recognizes himself a sinner and humble is raised up by God, but, who instead intends to get recognition and the first places risks to exclude himself from the banquet.
b) “Do not take your seat in the place of honour, a more distinguished person than you may have been invited… then to your embarrassment you will have to go and take the lowest place” (Lk 14, 8-9). It seems that Jesus takes as a joke the childish efforts of the gusts who struggle in order to get the best positions; but his intention has a more serious purpose. Speaking to the leaders of Israel he shows which is the power which builds up the relations of the Kingdom: “Whoever raises himself up will be humbled and who humbles himself will be raised up” (Lk 14, 11). He describes to them the “good use of power” founded on humility. It is the same power which God releases in humanity in the Incarnation: “At the service of the will of the Father, in order that the whole creation returns to him, the Word did not count “equality with God something to be grasped, but he emptied himself taking the form of a slave, becoming as human beings are; and being in every way like a human being, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death on the cross” (Phil 2, 6-8). This glorious kenosis of the Son of God has the capacity to heal, to reconcile and to liberate all creation. Humility is the force which builds up the Kingdom and the community of the disciples, the Church.
Reflection from Living Space, Sacred Space
Commentaries on the Readings Sirach 3:17-18.20.28-29; Hebrews 12:18-19.22-24a; Luke 14:1.7-14
THE WHOLE PASSAGE from which today’s Gospel is taken deals with people eating together. The Kingdom of God, the perfect society, which is the goal of the Christian message, is often pictured as a banquet. As such, it is a meal for everyone, not just a private dinner for two by candlelight. All the dishes on the table are for everyone equally. There is enough and more for every single person’s needs. It is an occasion of sharing and joyfulness.
And in the New Testament, the meals in which Christians share – and the Eucharist is among them – are meant to be a true sign of that yet-to-be-realised banquet and Kingdom.
That is exactly what we do not find in today’s Gospel. A rather sinister atmosphere is established by the opening sentence. “On a Sabbath day Jesus had gone for a meal to the house of one of the leading Pharisees.” It should have been an occasion of fellowship. Instead, we are told, “they watched him closely.” They were not watching him out of admiration or curiosity (the way a young child might for the first time watch a stranger at the family table). No, they wanted to see if Jesus on this Sabbath day would put a foot wrong so that they could accuse him. He was, in fact, judged before he even opened his mouth.
Accessible to all
For his part, we might notice the impartiality of Jesus. He raised many eyebrows when he was seen eating with tax collectors and sinners. But he was no inverse snob: he also accepted invitations from the rich and powerful. God’s love is for all: the sunshine and the rain fall equally on all. So it is with God’s love of which Jesus is the visible sign.
From this meal situation Jesus gives us two parables. It has been pointed out that in one Jesus speaks directly to the guests and in the other he addresses the host. In this way, Jesus involves them directly in what he is saying. As we watch and listen, we need to hear Jesus speaking to us also. The lessons are still totally relevant for our time and our society.
Being in the right place
The first parable was a response to the way the guests took their seats. Jesus “had noticed how they picked the places of honour”. In most formal dinners in our city, the seating is a very delicate matter. Those regarded as important are put near the host and the rest lower down. Elegantly printed cards at each place indicate exactly your status on this occasion. At a wedding dinner, only a few can share the top table with the married couple and their immediate family. Others will find themselves tucked away in a corner feeling the heat of the kitchen!
As Jesus spoke, did some of his fellow guests begin to feel uncomfortable? Were some dissatisfied because others had a higher place than they? Where was Jesus sitting? Do you think he cared very much? If you were there, would you have cared? Do you feel your worth as a person depends on how you are treated on such occasions?
Reversing the procedure
Jesus reverses the normal procedure. Do not go to a higher place, he says. You might suffer the indignity of being asked to sit lower down. Rather, go first to a lower place and you may be asked to move to a “higher” place and so get great face in front of everybody. It is a risky thing to do, of course. You might be left sitting in your lower place! For some, that could be a social disaster.
Jesus, of course, does not mean us to behave that way literally. What he does mean is that in the Kingdom of God such things have absolutely no importance. Someone with the spirit of the Kingdom knows that human status, that is, the status conferred by fickle society, does not mean anything at all.
The only status that counts is one’s relationship with God and with other people, irrespective of their classification by race, religion, profession or class. Our real status is measured not by our rank or occupation but by the level of love and service offered to God through our relationships with those around us. What counts is not how we are looked on by others but the degree of care and compassion with which we look at them. This calls for a strong inner security, which is independent of arbitrarily conferred status or position, so that one can say easily to another, “Why don’t you go to the top table and sit with the host?”
Those who find their security in their bonds of love with other people know that no status whatever is lost by having to sit near the kitchen. It gives them an opportunity to talk to the cook and the staff. It is put somewhat differently in the Second Reading (from Hebrews) today: “What you have come to is Mount Zion and the city of the living God … with the whole Church in which everyone is a ‘first-born’ and a citizen of heaven’”.
Who to invite
In the second parable Jesus talks directly to his host, a “leading Pharisee”. When you throw a banquet, Jesus tells him, don’t invite your friends, colleagues and other rich and influential people, who will outdo themselves in returning your invitation. A look at the social pages of our newspapers reveals a merry-go-round where the same people eat the same dinners in different venues night after night. On a lower level, most of us do more or less the same. And how many dinners are arranged as a bribe or a gentle form of blackmail? How many principals of “good” schools have the experience of being invited out to expensive eating places only to find in their mail soon after a request for a son or daughter to be accepted into their school. It happens all the time. It is even regarded as “normal”, “everybody does it”.
Jesus has rather different advice. When you organise a dinner, he says, invite rather the poor, the disabled and the disadvantaged. Invite those people in particular who will be able to give you absolutely nothing in return, who will be able to do absolutely nothing to further your career or your status in the community.
To use an image proposed by Matthew Fox, life can be seen as a ladder or a circle. Many of us live on a ladder, desperately trying to climb to the top. In so doing we often find ourselves climbing on the backs of others and even kicking them to the bottom so that we can reach the top. To be in the first place is deeply ingrained in many of our societies today – whether it is in business, in an examination, or even getting on to a bus. We are by and large a ladder society.
The Gospel is proposing that we rather try to work towards creating a circle society. In a circle, there is no top or bottom. All are equal. All are facing each other. All are in a better position to know and respect each other. (How can you respect the person you are climbing over to get to the top of the ladder?) All are in a better position to share what they have with those who have less. Put a round table between these people and everything is ready for a banquet. And, as the story goes, provide each person with a chopstick too long to be used by oneself but just the right length to offer food to the person opposite and you have the Kingdom in the making.
Is that possible? Is it too unrealistic? Certainly it will not be achieved in a day or even a generation. But we could begin in our own homes first of all. And then in the small groups to which we belong. Our parish with its small communities would be a very good place to start.
And right now we are attending a Christian banquet, the Eucharist. What links do we see between sharing together the bread and wine that is the Body and Blood of Jesus and the sharing together of food and conversation that takes place at our own dining tables or the tables of others? Should not our Eucharists have more of the characteristics of good family meals and should not good family meals be, in their own way, a living out of the Eucharist? In the early Christian Church, both the Eucharist and family/group meals were put back to back as part of one single experience. Is it not about time we started trying to do the same?
What is heaven like? It is important that we have some inkling as to what heaven is like if we are serious about going there. Without knowledge of what is in store for us in heaven, we would not strive to reach there. So what is heaven like and for whom? Heaven is really to be with God and with the communion of saints who have been made perfect in Christ Jesus. It is to have the heart of God.
Today, the liturgy gives us the fundamental criteria for living the life of God. It can be summed up as humility and charity. Indeed, St Francis de Sales said that humility and charity are both the lowest and the highest virtues necessary to build the edifice of our spiritual life. Humility is the foundation and charity is the roof of the spiritual edifice. Why is this so?
Humility is the gate to all other virtues in life. Without humility, we cannot grow in true self-knowledge, honesty, realism and strength in the face of trials, adversity and in good times. Humility enables us to see and judge ourselves correctly according to the judgment of God. Thus, in the first reading, the author advises us to be humble: “the greater you are, the more you should behave humbly, and then you will find favour with the Lord; for great though the power of the Lord is, he accepts the homage of the humble.”
Humility enables us to recognize our place in the world as given by God. Indeed, we cannot choose our position in life, whether we are intelligent or dull; whether we are born with a silver spoon in our mouth or to a poor family; whether we die young or old. As the first parable in today’s gospel suggests, God allots us our seats according to what is best for us in His divine wisdom and providence. Everything is given to us by the grace of God. So a humble man is grateful for whatever he receives because they are free gifts.
However, we must be careful not to deceive ourselves in humility. It would be a gross misinterpretation of today’s parable if we think that Jesus is suggesting that we should pretend to be nobody by sitting at the lowest place in order that the host would come and move us up higher and thus “everyone with you at the table will see you honoured.” Such ulterior motive is pride disguised as humility. If Jesus suggests that we sit in the lowest place, it is because we do not know ourselves. Thus, we need others to place us. Indeed, many of us are so blind that we cannot see our true self and thus we live either in low self-esteem or a superiority complex.
Humility is none of these. Humility is not to think of ourselves less, but to think less of ourselves. In other words, humility must not be confused with a poor self-image. Pride as a capital sin must not be confused with a healthy self-esteem. There is nothing wrong with taking pride in our work or having some pride in ourselves. For pride in this respect is to be understood as self-respect and respect for the integrity of one’s work. On the contrary, it would be false modesty to belittle ourselves or to deny our talents and gifts. This would be a denial and insult to the glory and graciousness of God.
Simply put, humility means accepting who we are, no more, no less. Humility is therefore a true understanding of who we are. A humble person makes a realistic assessment of himself without illusion or pretense to be what he is not. True humility frees us to be ourselves by freeing us from despair and pride. Such a person does not have to wear a mask or put on a facade in order to look good to others. He is not easily influenced by accidentals, such as fame, reputation, success or failure. As Blessed Mother Teresa said, “If you are humble, nothing will ever touch you, neither praise nor disgrace because you know what you are.”
True humility acknowledges the gifts we have but does not boast about them since they have been received as free gifts from the Lord. So, if there is anything to boast about, it is to boast of the goodness and generosity of the Lord.
Hence true humility, which evokes gratitude, always leads us to the exercise of charity. When we are humble and grateful that all we have comes from God, such a realization would give us the same empathy for others. We would see that our goods and talents are meant to be shared, since all of us are undeserving of God’s gifts. We know that what we are today is due to God’s grace. Realizing our own poverty will enable us to put others before ourselves, their needs before our own. Instead of competing with others, we will help them to attain what we have. Instead of being proud and arrogant, we listen to them for they too have something to offer us. Consequently, if we have the heart of God in us, we too want to be gracious and give to all those who cannot repay us in any way. Such unconditional love is true charity. Thus, charity and humility always go together.
Indeed, just like false humility, we must not misunderstand the gospel as encouraging us to practise false charity. When Jesus said, “When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not ask your friends, brothers, relations or rich neighbours, for fear they repay your courtesy by inviting you in return”, what kind of fear is He implying? Certainly, it is not the fear of being repaid in such a way that we feel small. Indeed, there are some people who like to give but they do not like to receive. For in giving, they feel that they are superior, whereas in receiving, they are like beggars. Of course, the other fear of being invited back is when there is a competition to be better than the other. There are some people who like to outdo each other so that they are one “up” on the other. Such a competitive spirit springs from pride and egotism.
Rather, the fear that Jesus speaks about is “holy fear.” In other words, it is the fear that our love for others would be reduced to a pagan love. What is a pagan love if not simply an exchange of love and gifts? To love those who love us is not really love because we still primarily love ourselves. The only difference is that instead of loving ourselves directly, we love others so that we can receive love in return. But the love of God is an unconditional love. It has no motive other than for the good of the other person. So to love like God, we must love without motivation and without vested interest. Such love is truly an emptying of oneself and therefore a charity in humility.
But is there anything wrong with hoping to receive an eternal reward, if not an earthly reward? Are we not still being self-centered? Jesus seems to encourage that, for He said, “when you have a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; that they cannot pay you back means that you are fortunate, because repayment will be made to you when the virtuous rise again.”
Firstly, we must understand the words of Jesus in context. The reward that Jesus is speaking about is not some kind of merits earned because of our hard work and sacrifices. We must realize that even if we can do good works, it is because of the grace of God. Without the love of the Holy Spirit in us, we cannot do any good in a selfless manner. Pure love and selfless service come from God alone and His grace.
Secondly, when we speak of the eternal reward, we are speaking of a share in the life, joy and happiness of God. When we share with others and exercise charity humbly, we share in the heart of God. In the process of giving, we receive. So the reward that Jesus is speaking about is not something at the end of time. Rather it is given the moment we die to ourselves and rise to a new life in Christ.
If we want to grow in humility and true love, we must learn from Jesus. As St Paul wrote to the Philippians, Jesus “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:6-8).
Indeed, among the saints, we can learn best perhaps from St Ignatius of Loyola who always reminded his followers that we must always put God above all things so that we can find Him in all things. In everything we do, we must seek for the greater glory of God. As such, we are called to choose poverty rather than riches; humiliation rather than glory; failure rather than success. Only when we deliberately choose the lowest seat, then we can be free interiorly for God’s service, accepting happily whatever lot He chooses for us. For such a man, he is always contented, never asking for more and happy with what he has.
Written by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore.
Tags: 7-14, August 28 2016, Beatitudes, do not recline at table in the place of honor, Eucharist, God in your goodness you have made a home for the poor, good use of power founded on humility, HEB 12:18-24, humility, Humility may be the most important virtue, Lk 14 11, LK 14:1, LK 14:1 7-14, MT 11:29AB, Prayer and Meditation, Psalm 68, service to others, SIR 3:17-29, the joys of serving others, when you hold a banquet invite the poor the crippled the lame the blind, Whoever raises himself up will be humbled and who humbles himself will be raised up, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous, your reward is in heaven