Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29
My child, conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts. Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God. What is too sublime for you, seek not, into things beyond your strength search not. The mind of a sage appreciates proverbs, and an attentive ear is the joy of the wise. Water quenches a flaming fire, and alms atone for sins.
Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24a
Brothers and sisters: You have not approached that which could be touched and a blazing fire and gloomy darkness and storm and a trumpet blast and a voice speaking words such that those who heard begged that no message be further addressed to them. No, you have approached Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and countless angels in festal gathering, and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven, and God the judge of all, and the spirits of the just made perfect, and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and the sprinkled blood that speaks more eloquently than that of Abel.
Gospel Cycle Cycle C
Luke 14:1, 7-14
On a sabbath Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully. He told a parable to those who had been invited, noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table. “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 every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Then he said to the host who invited him, “When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
Jesus wants to talk to us today about humility and what that might look like in our lives and what meanings it might have for us. Great spiritual teachers in our Catholic tradition have taught about humility. Real humility is living in the truth of who we are before God and who we are in relationship to one another. Our present culture values neither truth nor humility and so this teaching on humility is at times difficult to accept.
The first reading today is from the Book of Sirach. The teaching is that humility will make a person loved, even more than giving gifts to others. Humility always places us below others so that we can serve them without resentment and with true love and appreciation. The higher position that we have in the world, the deeper is our need for humility. Such humility will be shown in having an attentive ear. Today, we would say that we need to listen to the other person. Humility is also known in the person who listens attentively to wisdom stories, to proverbs and to real life situations that help us understand others and respect them.
Wisdom is not an intellectual activity. No, it is the gift of knowing how to live well in every situation while maintaining our deepest values. At times wisdom can lead us to martyrdom, since that is the only way to live our values well. Often wisdom knows how to be still and keep silence so that all our attention is focused on knowing what our situation really is.
As a practical spiritual exercise, today we might try to be still and silent and just listen to others and see what that listening does to us interiorly.
The Gospel today invites us to think about how we think and act in relationship to others. When we are in the company of others, do we put ourselves forward or do we stay in the background unless we are called forward? Perhaps even more importantly, how do we think of ourselves in relationship to others? We can stay in the background and still think of others as fools!
Jesus invites us to think of ourselves as always the last and the least. This is a difficult spiritual teaching, but one that needs to be heard at face value and not discussed away. We are invited to think of ourselves as less than others. This has nothing to do with poor self image nor with psychological problems! Rather, this is an invitation to live in truth with others and to forge a new relationship with others by changing our way of thinking of them.
Just for a moment, try to imagine such a way of thinking among politicians. It boggles the mind. On the other hand, if you and I are not willing to try living it in our own personal lives, then we can never understand the power of love and of humility.
Let us love others today, especially those who cannot repay our love! Let us serve each person who comes into our life. Let us listen attentively so that we can know the divine presence at work in our world!