Sunday, August 28, 2016

Twenty Second Sunday Ordinary Time YearC

Readings: Sir 3:17-18,20,28-29; Heb 12:18-19,22-24; Lk 14:1,7-14

Last Sunday, the readings focused on the image of the “narrow gate” of discipline. This Sunday, the readings return to the same theme, this time underlining the importance of the virtue humility for the follower of Christ. The first reading from Sirach urges us to conduct our “affairs with humility” and we “will be more loved than a giver of gifts”. In other words, the humble person is more appreciated than a lavish giver. A humble person is wise and always content, while proud persons obsess themselves with foolish and dishonest schemes for success. The readings challenge us to be like Jesus who was totally humble and could see right through every disguise of the Ego, even the most subtle ones. Jesus never needed evidence about anyone - he knew what a person had and noticed how each acted - either according to humility or pride. Jesus was humble, a true servant. “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk 10:43-45). Jesus did only the works his Father gave him to do and he spoke only the words his Father wanted him to speak. We too, should be like that – humbly speaking only the words we hear Christ speak through the Church. So the humble person will be exalted in the kingdom of heaven. Here on earth he or she does not have to be jealous. A humble person lets others have their gifts and does not have to hold grudges. Humble people can forgive easily because they know who they are; they are not afraid to confess their sins; they can not only love their enemies, but also praying for them.

Jesus in the Gospel challenges us to seek the lowest place at a banquet; to be humble. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor.” This spirituality of the lowest place is not just about table etiquette. It is an essential spirituality that leads us to salvation. The parable Jesus tells is a lesson about membership in the Kingdom. Such membership does not depend on one’s merits, social standing or economic status. We do not save ourselves by these means. Salvation is God’s work in the first place. Hence, those who consider themselves worthy of high places in the Kingdom, like the Pharisees who expected the best seats as reward for their meticulous observance of the law (holier than thou attitude), will find themselves humbled to take the lowest places. Moreover, when God is King, membership in His Kingdom is open for all. In other words, salvation is a free unmerited gift to those whom God in Jesus calls. When God is King, He invites the uninvited, the unexpected and those who are nothing in the eyes of society. “When you hold a lunch or dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back… Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, …” God invites those who acknowledge their unworthiness before him. The Gospel therefore underlines Jesus' teaching that one enters the Kingdom of God by living a humble life, living a spirituality of the last place. "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted". Such a message obviously contradicts the expectations of today’s society based on competition and social-economic status. So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) One enters the Kingdom of God by living a humble life, living a spirituality of the last place; 2) Membership in the Kingdom is God’s free gift to those who deserve it, namely, those who truly humble themselves. 3) When God is King, He invites the uninvited, the unexpected and those who are nothing in the eyes of society. They all symbolize those who acknowledge their unworthiness.

©2016 John S. Mbinda

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