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Humility and Honor ...

Dear Parishioners,

At formal dinners such as wedding receptions, seats of honor are assigned and a place at the table is limited only to invited guests. How disrespectful someone would be to dare breach this protocol and come to a wedding banquet uninvited or take a seat assigned to someone else! Certain occasions require certain protocols. And protocols are for the benefit of right relationships. In this weekend’s Gospel, Jesus challenges both the guests and the host at a dinner. But in this circumstance, the issue isn’t one of protocol. Much more is at stake.

Jesus calls the guests to let go of seeking places of honor and to choose seats that lead to being called “to a higher position.” Jesus calls the host to invite as his guests those who have themselves to give in return, for which he will be repaid at the “resurrection of the righteous.” Ultimately this Gospel is about relationships. Relationships among ourselves that build upon true humility and unreciprocated generosity deepen our relationship with the Divine Host who desires our present at the everlasting wedding Banquet where we will be the honored guests. Jesus in this weekend’s Gospel brings us to a longer vision – not to be concerned with our immediate honor or satisfaction, but to put first what has eternal value.

While at table, Jesus’ eye is on the “wedding banquet” in God’s kingdom where human expectations are reversed … the humble are exalted and the exalted are humbled. At that same heavenly Table, service to those who cannot repay (“the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind”) is repaid by God in “the resurrection of the righteous.” Acts of earthly humility and generosity are met with heavenly exaltation and God’s generosity. Humility is, in part, knowing one’s strengths and weaknesses (see the First Reading) and one’s place (Gospel). But it is more. Humility is the virtue by which we acknowledge our status before God: we are “the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind” who come to God’s table because of God’s invitation and generosity.

Thus Jesus’ remarks in this Gospel remind us about our truest identity in relation to God. As deeply humble people, we come to God empty and open ourselves to God’s filling us with what is lasting. This reward – everlasting life at God’s messianic Banquet – is ours if we but treat others as God treats us – we ourselves must bestow dignity and generosity on others. It is God who exalts us, not our own choosing or actions. It is God who repays us with the most unimaginable gift of all – everlasting life. Humility helps us shift our limited vision and relationship to and enduring perspective which keeps our focus on God.

Jesus is calling the disciples back to the authentic Jewish tradition of caring for the “widow, orphan, and sojourner” (see, for example, Exodus 22:21 and Zechariah 7:10). These three groups in Israelite society were symbolic of those who were in a position of needing others to look after their well-being. Israel’s care for them reflected God’s care for Israel. Jesus is calling us to authentic relationship with God by caring for those who cannot care for themselves. The surprise: total self-giving to the lowly and needy means reward in heaven – eternal glory with God!

The lowly are those who need food, clothing, and shelter. Our cities are full of these kinds of dispossessed people. The lowly are also the children in our midst … the physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually challenged … the elderly. We do not need to look very far to put Jesus’ teaching this week into practice!

May Saint Michael the Archangel defend, guide, protect, and intercede for us always!

Fr. Larry

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