September 1, 2019 — Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today’s readings remind us of a chief virtue that characterizes the Christian steward: humility. This is a virtue that is widely thought of as a form of self-abasement. But that understanding is off the mark. Humility is simply the awareness of who (and Whose) we truly are.
On one hand, we are children of the Most High God who loved us into existence; children whose Father sent His son to die for our sins, children who, by virtue of our Baptism, have the Holy Trinity dwelling within us. On the other hand, we are children who are completely dependent on God for our very existence and for every breath we take. The Christian steward lives with an awareness of these two realities — our great dignity as sons and daughters of God, and our total dependence on Him for all that we are and all that we have been given.
Our First Reading, from Sirach, instructs, “What is too sublime for you, seek not, into things beyond your strength search not.” As Christian stewards, aware of our total dependence on God, we must be content with “being little.” We recognize that all that we have and all that we are is an unmerited gift from God. All bragging rights belong to Him, not us.
Our Lord speaks of true humility and the kind of outlook that goes along with it in our Gospel passage from Luke. While at a dinner party in the home of one of the leading Pharisees, Jesus observes the guests at the party jockeying for the most prestigious spots at the table.
He takes the opportunity to tell a parable (which sounds amazingly like the real-life situation that is happening at the very dinner party Christ is attending. Our Lord really has a wonderful sense of humor!) He says if you get invited to, say, a wedding banquet, not to take a place of honor at the table. He warns that a more distinguished guest might arrive and then embarrassment would ensue as you have to make your way to a less prestigious spot.
In sharing this parable, Jesus has in mind much more than an etiquette lesson. He is reminding us that all glory belongs to God. The visual image He offers in having to slink down to a lower seat at the table points out how silly we are when we forget to give God the credit for our blessings and talents. Jesus says, “Every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” When we live in humility — recognizing that all we have are gifts from God and using those gifts to serve Him and others — then God “exalts” us by filling us with even more of Himself and His grace.
Jesus goes on to encourage us to actively seek to serve and share our blessings with people facing circumstances that would make it impossible for them to offer us any worldly advantage or prestige — people who are in poverty or have disabilities or infirmities of any kind. “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…”
Our attitude and the way in which we serve and share should be centered on true humility — recognizing that we are all “little” ones in the eyes of God. We are all His children; brothers and sisters invited to our Father’s heavenly banquet.