1st Reading: Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29
Intro: The Wisdom Books of the Hebrew scriptures pass on the advice of their culture. This selection from one of them introduces the theme of today’s Gospel; the highly prized but seldom achieved virtue of humility.
2nd Reading: Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24a
Intro: Remember that the author of Hebrews reminded the people of the holy men and women of the Hebrew Scriptures as examples of right living. In this selection, he reminds them of how unapproachable God seemed to the people at the giving of the Commandments on Mt. Sinai. He compares that with God’s closeness now, from Mt. Zion.1
Gospel: Luke 14:1, 7-14
“Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled…”
Jesus uses a parable, in this story, that portrays human worldly wisdom. It’s easy for us to think, “that’s smart, it makes sense.” Of course, the guests that His comments were directed toward don’t seem to be that wise. Maybe they were so sure of themselves that they thought they would surely get a high place and weren’t worried about embarrassment.
But Jesus doesn’t teach simply human wisdom and this story is no exception. It ends with the comment “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” This, on the surface of it, seems self-serving also. Obviously, someone who exalts himself is self-serving. But isn’t someone who humbles himself just so that he can be exalted, self-serving too. Yes, because that is not true humility and that is not what Jesus is talking about.
Real humility is accepting and living the truth about ourselves. And the most basic truth about ourselves is that everything that we are has been given us by God. Our talents and skills and personality traits2, everything that we are, is given us by God. There is no such thing as a self-made man. There is no such thing as a person who pulls himself up by his bootstraps. To think such a thing is arrogance in the face of the God who made us.
We should acknowledge the traits and talents and skills that God has given us. We should come to know them and develop them; He gave them to us for a reason, you know. We can be proud, I think, that He has entrusted them to us. That pride should cause us to use them for His glory, as they say.
St. Paul touches on these points in the great discussion of proper Church gatherings in chapters 12 through 14 of 1st Corinthians. He points out that a variety of spiritual gifts are given by the same Spirit for the benefit (of building up the Church) (1 Cor 12:4-7). Using the imagery of the body, he demonstrates how each part is needed and how the body cannot do without any of the parts (1 Cor 12:21-26). He says that if our use of a gift is not beneficial to the Church, we should keep it private (1 Cor 14:27-28). And, he tells us we should pray for the development of our gifts (1 Cor 14:12).
1 Cor 13, by-the-way, is that great discussion of love which people like to have read at their weddings. Paul’s purpose in giving that chapter is to say that the spiritual gifts discussed in chapters 12 and 14 are nothing if the person is not acting out of love. And, that is precisely where humility comes in. Humility, our proper place at table, is found in loving the other, caring for the other. Humility is not found in simply caring for ourselves without regard for the other.
When we embrace the other in true Christian love, we discover that we are all equal in God’s eyes and we achieve an equality, one with the other, in our eyes too. We sit at table in the great banquet hall of the Lord, delighted to be one with them and, thereby, one with Him.
“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.” Lk 14:10-11
What words or phrases grabbed your attention during the Liturgy of the Word on Sunday? What connection do those words or phrases have to your day-to-day life? (Why do you think they grabbed your attention?) What might God be trying to say to you through these words or phrases? What response should you make? What action should you take?
Reflect upon/Share about who, in our society, is being looked
down upon? Who are we excluding from their proper place at the banquet because
of our feeling that they are lower than us? What must I do to learn to embrace
them as equals, in my heart?
Verse by Verse
Lk 14:2-6, the story of the cure of the man with dropsy on a Sabbath, was left out of this Sunday’s selection so we could concentrate on this parable.
Lk 14:7| Those invited are the scribes and Pharisees mentioned in Lk 14:3.
Lk 14:11| He who exalts himself will be humbled. This verse is repeated in the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector who went to the temple to pray, Lk 18:14, and may point back to Ezk 21:31, in the NAB, (Ezk 21:26 in some other translations) where the prophecy is warning the King of punishment because of his sins.
Lk 14:13| Are these, the poor, the lame, the crippled and the blind, the type of people who will be invited to the heavenly banquet? They are like the anawim3; because of their need, the must depend completely on God.
Lk 14:14a|”Blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.” This verse reminds us of Lk 6:32-35
Lk 14:14b|Humble service to God’s people results in being considered righteous4 in God’s eyes.
- Mt Zion has referred to different places, the City of David, the Temple Mount & now, the Western Hill of Jerusalem. It might be best to think of it as the place where God dwells (Is 8:18, Ps 74:2).
- Personality traits are gifts from God. They are not inherently good or bad. We can, though, use them sinfully or grace-fully, that’s our choice.
- The anawim are God’s “little ones” mentioned in Hebrew Scripture
- This is not “righteous” in the modern sense of being “cool” but means right relationship with God & His people.