In the Gospel reading for the 22nd Sunday in ordinary time, Jesus is invited to a banquet at a Pharisee’s house, and there He observes people vying for the most prominent places at table (Lk 14:1, 7-14).
In that time and culture, honor and shame were very important, so one’s place at table was a big thing for them.
Jesus turns our value systems upside down
As is so often the case, Jesus turns the value systems of the time upside down. He tells them not to seek the highest places of honor. In addition, Jesus’ banquet invitation is extended to everyone, especially to the poor and the humble, the diseased and the outcast, who had no way of returning the favor.
That can be very humbling, which is what Sirach speaks to in the first reading. We are not to become inflated and egocentric. In fact, Sirach says, one’s humility should increase as one’s stature increases.
Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find mercy in the sight of God. (Sir 3:18)
Often, that is not the way of our time and culture either. It is helpful to look at the root word for both the word humility and humor.
They come from the Latin word “humus”, which means soil or earth. A truly humble person is one who is rooted and grounded, and has a sense of humor, which helps to keep things in a better perspective.
Humility is looking at ourselves from God’s perspective
Humility is not putting oneself down, but rather trying to see oneself more as God sees us. If I am able to do that, I have less need to feel that I have to prove myself, or to prove something in life.
As I am more able to live in that mode, I am more apt and willing to invite all to the table of my life and not feel threatened. Then, I realize that I am not the center of the universe, and can let God be that center.
In a truly humble person, there is more room for God and for others. The humble are the ones who can receive the gifts of God, because they realize that they need them, and they have room in their lives for those gifts.
Each time we approach and share at the banquet table, let us do so more deeply grounded and rooted in the Source of all gifts, and humbly and graciously receive them and share them.
(Fr. Wayne Gubbels, Retired)