September 1, 2013 –– Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sir 3: 17-18, 20, 28-29; Ps 68: 4-7, 10-11; Heb 12: 18-19, 22-24A; Lk 14: 1, 7-14
Humility is the prevailing theme in the readings of this 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time. It begins with the Lord’s reminder to us in the Gospel from Luke, “For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
There is a difference between humility and disparaging oneself. Jesus is not calling for us to act as if we are less than someone else. However, He does want us to have a realistic view of ourselves in relation to God and in comparison to other people.
The first reading from the Book of Sirach begins with these prophetic words: “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.” Interestingly, the Book of Sirach, although part of our Catholic Old Testament as well as the Bibles of the Anglican Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches, is not part of the Jewish Talmud or part of most Protestant Bibles.
However, Sirach, originally written in Hebrew about 200 BC, and then translated to Greek, is rich with wisdom. Sirach is a series of teachings about life and how to live life. This particular segment (Sirach 3) offers exactly the kind of instruction and suggestion that Jesus uses so consistently. The message is basically that we can never fully understand the mysteries of life or some of the complex aspects of faith and stewardship. That is where humility comes into play—accept the truth and follow the Lord. The opposite of humility — pride, that is — can be hazardous to us as Christians.
Humility is, thus, a form of acceptance. The second reading from Hebrews reinforces that, albeit from a bit of a different viewpoint. We must remember that the Letter to the Hebrews was written because many among the Jewish people were uncomfortable with the New Covenant given by Christ and wished to return to the Old Covenant (Jewish Law). The humble person acknowledges and accepts the New Covenant.
Jesus, as is usually the case, delivers the complete message by relating a series of parables in the Gospel of Luke. The Parable at hand (today’s Gospel) suggests that when you are invited to a banquet, you should not be scrambling for the best seat. That is where humility comes in, both for the guests at the banquet and for us as Christian stewards. Jesus tries over and over to explain to us that our ideas of social acceptability, of social rank, are completely unimportant in God’s view and opinion of us. We are called to stewardship, to discipleship, to love, and if it means giving someone else our seat, or our place in line (the first shall be last and the last shall be first), then so be it. Amen, a Hebrew word, means, after all, “so be it.” Amen!