22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 1, 2019
Almost everyone has been to some kind of banquet or award dinner in which there is a head table. Usually it is reserved for those who are being honored in some way or who are part of the program for the evening. Even in monastic communities, there is often an “abbot’s table” where a guest would not normally sit unless invited to.
In this Sunday’s gospel (Luke 14:1-14) Jesus is attending a dinner party and is watching human nature being played out. Apparently, there were more people trying to sit in the most prominent seats than there were seats for them. Also, it would seem that Jesus was not one of those to be honored at the head table. What an irony.
Most of us have also had the experience of working with someone, having a classmate, or a friend who is good at “self-promoting”. One type of self-booster-ism that I particularly do not appreciate is when people keep dropping hints about all the places that they visited; these days almost no one is impressed by travel since so many have done it. Other irritating ways that this is done is when people assume the square footage of their home will impress, or the successes their children are having, or dropping hints about other possessions which imply wealth. Most of us are not impressed with this behavior and neither is God.
The real question, though, is what impresses God? The answer: humility-acting like Christ did. If there was one person at that biblical dinner party who deserved to be at the head table, it was Jesus, but he did not seek that. No one likes to be passed over for honors or recognition or a promotion, but when this happens, my reaction to this will tell me a great deal about how much humility I really have, or rather how much pride I am holding onto.
Perhaps I’ve done something nice for someone and was criticized instead of being thanked; a gift we gave was not appreciated; an opinion is voiced and ridiculed; I reach out to someone with a phone call or an email or letter and am ignored; a traffic jam makes me inordinately upset; I am inconvenienced in travel and am rude to the agent!
What all of these types of situations have in common is that my ego, my plans, my self-importance has been knocked down a peg. By these and many other situations we come to realize how much pride we are carrying around, resulting in a self-centered worldview. So many times life deals us opportunities disguised as problems, and sometimes the best blessings that we receive are when we are humbled and don’t deserve it, because this makes us more like Christ and puts our worldview in its proper perspective.