True humility is knowing our need for God

SEPTEMBER 1, 2019 TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (Lec. 126)                                                                                                                        

1)         Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29                                                              

2)         Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24a

3)         Luke 14:1, 7-14 Gospel related: CCC 575, 588 CSDC 261 

We are all familiar with that moment when we walk into a wedding reception wondering where we will be seated. Unless we are part of the actual wedding party, most of us would never dream of sitting at the main table, instead we tend to stay close to the door, looking for the table map or hoping that someone will call out over here, you’re at this table.” Today’s Gospel makes use of this familiar scene, allowing Jesus to teach us about humility and its role in the kingdom.

From the beginning of his ministry, Jesus made it clear that the kingdom of God is pure gift, never earned or achieved by what we do. There is no special status or honor for those who come first, or those born into any particular race or family. Simply to be at the banquet is honor enough. And where we sit at this great feast is not for us to decide, but for the one who has invited us.

It is clear that the Pharisees have invited Jesus not to engage him in dialogue, but to observe him carefully and perhaps even to catch him out. Here Luke uses the Greek verb paratereo (to watch insidiously) to suggest this hostile intent, a verb he will use again when they try to test him on the issue of taxes to Caesar (20:20). Clearly, this was never meant to be a relaxed encounter. But as usual, it is Jesus who gets the upper hand, teaching them a lesson in humility.

Observing how they chose the best seats for themselves, Jesus was able to perceive their prioritiesto be seen, to be honored, to be important! But these are not the priorities of the kingdom, nor are they the criteria for deciding who will be invited to its banquet.

In words that are radical and countercultural, even today, Jesus explains that the kingdom is for those who truly know their need of God and who live in the knowledge of their inability to repay him.   

Of course, in moments of difficulty knowing that need is a little easier, so the real test comes in the ordinary events of daily life. Humility comes in ordering our priorities, and how our faith informs our lives as married people, parents, single people, teenagers and children.

Through baptism, we have been given a role in the building of the kingdom. As we gather today, there is no place of honor, except for the Lord who is our host. Today we come as we are: a people in need of God’s mercy – a people who need to experience his love and joy. We come not because it is a reward for what we have done, but in order to be changed. Christ is the one who invites us to share in God’s mercy and love. It is in his power that we are sent out to live what we have celebrated, and to invite others to share with us in the kingdom.