September 1, 2019
“Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees.” The people there observed Jesus carefully, perhaps looking to find something to trap him with. Jesus is also observing their behavior and notices “how they were choosing the places of honor.”
They want the recognition. This is “pride”, one of the seven deadly sins. Jesus’ desire is to help them see the error of their ways so that they may become good disciples. His desire for us is the same.
So, He tells them a parable set at a wedding banquet. He tells them not to seek the “place of honor” for it might actually cause them embarrassment if a “more important person” comes and they are asked to move. Here, He uses their pride to motivate them to become more humble.
He tells them if they take the lower place, if they are the most important people there, the host will invite them “to a higher position.” Perhaps there might be some false humility here. They might take the lower place with hope of being called up but at least it is a start. Sometimes the changes we need to make to be good disciples have to come in small steps because that is all we can handle.
What is “humility”?
Some think being humble means we can’t acknowledge the good we do. They might go so far as to think being humble means thinking they are not good. That’s not true. We can be humble and acknowledge the good we do by giving credit where credit is done.
This begins with acknowledging that the Lord is “the giver of every good gift” (opening prayer for Mass today). We are able to do good because of the gifts God has given us.
Jesus teaches about humility in the context of places of honor at a wedding banquet. Humility is a virtue that we need to make part of our whole life.
For instance, on Monday we celebrate Labor Day. It is a day to celebrate the accomplishments that come from the work we do.
How do you look at the work you do? Here I want to say that by “work”, I do not simply mean what we do at a paid job. “Work” as I am referring to can include any task we do. Perhaps you volunteer. It can be what one does as a parent to raise their children. Good parenting is not motivated to make the parent look good through their children (this happens but it should not be the motivation). Good parenting is motivated to help their children become good people and good disciples.
Are you prideful about your “work”? Do you put all your energy into being the best, trying to be better than everyone else? That would be “pride.” It is better to be humble. In being humble we do try to do our best but not to look good. No, we do it for the glory of God.
Who would you rather be around? A humble person or a bragger? Think of the words of Sirach, “My child, conduct your affairs with humility and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts.”
Isn’t it easier to work with someone who humbles themselves and will work with you rather than work with someone who will do anything to get ahead without concern for others?
In proper humility we open ourselves to the help of others. We open ourselves to God’s guidance. Here I think of Sirach’s words, “the mind of a sage appreciates proverbs and an attentive ear is the joy of the wise.” If we are truly humble and wise, we want to listen so that we may grow.
After all, what is our goal? Are we looking to make a lot of money (that would be greed)? Do we just want to look good (that would be pride)? Or are we trying to live the words of the Lord’s Prayer, “your kingdom come,” working to make God’s kingdom known in this world?
What about our humbleness before God?
What is your attitude in approaching God? Do we realize that as we come here into God’s house, that we are coming before the Lord? Yes, God is present everyone but God is present here in church in a special way? That’s why we genuflect when we come in. It’s our acknowledgment of God’s greatness.
Do we pray before Mass to hand our concerns over to God so we can focus on giving glory to God? Does our appearance serve as a recognition of our love for God?
Do you come here to get something? For the record, we do get something wonderful, grace! We receive it through God’s Word and through the Eucharist. However, coming here is not just about us getting something. Coming here to celebrate Mass is centered on praising God for what He has already done for us. We humble ourselves to thank God. When we do so we open ourselves to trusting in God so that we live in his peace for the future.
It is in surrendering ourselves to God and living in gratitude for what God has given us that we can find peace and say to God, “for in you we live and move and have our being” (Preface VI of the Sundays in Ordinary Time).