Scripture Reflection - August 28, 2016

22nd Sunday In Ordinary Time Sir 3: 17-18, 20, 28-29 | Heb 12: 18-19, 22-24A | Lk 14:1 7-14

“Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto thine”

Today’s scriptures invite us to reflect on the virtue of humility. The first reading from Sirach tells us to “conduct your affairs with humility and you will be loved more than the giver of gifts. Humble yourself the more, the greater you are and you will find favor with God.” Then, in the gospel, this message is reinforced by Jesus, Himself. He had been invited to a dinner at the home of a Pharisee. Although the Pharisees, unlike the Sadducees, were more in touch with the common folk, they were still concerned with status and rank. Your place at the dinner table was important. It reflected your prominence (or lack thereof) in the community. As a host, you had to be sure that all the guests would be given their due, according to their status. Exactly where do you seat such a person as Jesus?  He was not wealthy.  He didn’t have a home to call His own. His friends were not held in high esteem. Truth be told, they were a pretty rag-tag bunch. If you wanted to gain His favor, you would give Him top priority…just in case He really is who He says He is…If you wanted to humiliate Him…not an uncommon scenario…you would give Him the last seat by the kitchen door. We never really find out where Jesus was assigned. We know  that He was not concerned about that, although His disciples might have been. We hear many stories from the gospels that indicate a certain sense of dismay among the disciples about who Jesus was rubbing shoulders with. The people seemed most unworthy…the poor, the sick, the blind, the lame…yet; they were precisely those that Jesus seemed to seek out. They were not necessarily unworthy because of sin but they were considered outcasts. Why did He choose them?  They were certainly not prominent citizens! What did He gain by associating with them? The disciples did not understand humility; At least not the humility that Jesus was preaching. Remember that they were the ones who became engaged in an argument about who would sit in the prominent, exalted seats with Jesus in the kingdom. (“An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest …” (Lk 9:46)  Jesus had rebuked them by using a child as an example of meekness. He said that the Kingdom of heaven was meant for such as them.

Jesus’ message was pretty straightforward…those that exalt themselves will be humbled and those that humble themselves will be exalted. That message is true for us, today. We have to stop and think…Who are we rubbing shoulders with? Do we worry about currying favor with those who hold prominent positions? Do we aspire to being “top banana” at any cost? Do we always like to be the center of attention? Is the lure of fame and fortune creating unbalance in our lives? OR...do we follow the example of Jesus?  Jesus, who humbled Himself to walk among us, who allowed Himself to be crucified like a common criminal, who did not come to rule but to serve, who washed the feet of His disciples. Do we live out a preferential option for the poor, the sick, the physically, emotionally and spiritually needy…those on the fringes, those who others pass by on their way to the honored seats? Certainly, they are among those to whom we minister. The disciples might give some serious thought as to why we’re choosing those people. But, Jesus would say,  “whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, that you do unto me”. (Matthew 25:40)  Jesus is a King.  He spoke of His Kingdom, frequently. He assured us that we have a standing invitation to join Him there…at His banquet. We should not take for granted that we deserve that invitation and with it favored seats at the table.  No, we should instead be happy to enter on the coat-tails of those poor, marginalized, neglected and forgotten people. It is they who are the highly favored guests.

Pat O’Malley, Associate

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