"For he who exalts himself will be humbled"....despite his huge Twitter following
"Humility is not thinking less of yourself....it's thinking of yourself less" - C.S. Lewis
At first glance, one would certainly agree that this Sunday's Readings deal with the topic of humility, not a popular subject in the red carpet struttin', end-zone celebrating, follow-me-on-Twitter world that we are now forced to endure.
Of course humility and modesty have never been the most exciting or revered of traits, regardless of the year emblazoned across the calendar. Many years ago, the incomparable Groucho Marks spoke of a nurse who was so taken aback by her own beauty that she would automatically deduct 10 points from each of her male patient's pulse reading in order to compensate for the knee-buckling effect she had on them. So when the author of the Book of Sirach reminds us in the first reading to "conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts" and to "humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God" we need to temporarily step away from the ostentatious lens though which many of us, either consciously or subconsciously, are not-so-subtly persuaded to view the world.
Moving on to Luke's Gospel (Luke 14:1, 7-14), we find Jesus dining at the home of a high ranking member of the Pharisees, His every move being analyzed....and over-analyzed. In keeping true to what we know about Jesus and His keen sense of timing and intuition, once He realizes the audience is primed for a parable, he goes on to tell the story of those who had been invited to a wedding banquet. He had this to say:
"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 everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.'
.....so I guess it's safe to say that Jesus will not be logging on to Stub Hub in an effort to secure 50 yard line seats for this weekend's Notre Dame vs. Michigan Game.
What a concept. Here in New York City's Port Authority, those who politely step aside and give up their place to a fellow pre-occupied, ear-budded commuter in an effort to abide by the notion that "the first shall by last and the last shall be first" must tack on the addendum that "the last will also be forced to wait for the next bus". But of course no one ever said that it would be easy to live in the finite world while also preparing for the infinite and eternal one.
Father Kenneth Lasch in his weekly on-line homily (a must read for any Catholic in search of genuine insight and introspection by the way) challenges us to look beyond the message of modesty, humility, manners and the art of diplomacy in the Sunday Readings. He goes on rather convincingly to point out that there is more to this week's message. He talks about true character development and the qualities that distinguish people striving for a place at God's Table, the same table of course that Jesus symbolically references in His parable of the Wedding Feast.
Do those privileged members of our society truly believe that God loves the downtrodden as much as He loves them? Just as important, do those who are amongst the less fortunate believe that Jesus loves them just as much as those who reside in the so-called desirable zip codes? Who do we invite to our proverbial Sunday Table?
As Father Lasch concludes, we are always on the invitation list for the Sunday Meal and in this assembly, we are all equal. Yes, the Sunday Eucharist is in fact the great equalizer.
Securing our seat at God's Banquet is in fact the ultimate goal of the long and twisted journey that we embark upon every day in this voyage we call life. A slow and steady absorption of wisdom, the type of wisdom that can only be gained by carefully learning the lessons that Jesus so freely and generously offers to each and every one of us, is the only sure fire way to book our reservation.