Being Observed and Found Wanting
22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 28, 2022
Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully. He told a parable to those who had been invited, noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table.
There’s nothing like being invited to a dinner party, only to find yourself in a place where everyone is staring at you! Well, this is exactly the situation Jesus finds himself in, attending a dinner banquet with a bunch of disapproving high-ups and Pharisees. Jesus is being watched by these people and found wanting. But Jesus is also watching and finds them wanting. The disapproving observers are themselves being observed, and Jesus does not like what he is seeing. Guess whose opinion will win in the end?
What’s wrong with this picture? What Jesus is observing is a room full of self-important people and religious leaders, all jockeying for position as the most important, each vying for the seats closest to the top. Sounds like a room full of climbers, show-offs, and self-important horn-tooters. Jesus, a carpenter by trade, with his calloused workman’s hands and his Nazareth accent (considered to be a backwater area in that era) must have really stood out in this group. Jesus uses this uncomfortable situation as a teachable moment. As usual, the real head of the table, Jesus, who is God, was in disguise as one whom no one would recognize as important, and he was treated this way by these people wherever he went. But the lowly often recognized him.
No one likes these kinds of people, those who let everyone know how rich or powerful or important they are, or climbers willing to step on anyone or anything (including the commandments) to get what they want. Jesus does encourage us to try to be first in the sight of God, but paradoxically, the best place to be in this world will often be the last place. That’s where Jesus was. That’s where he still is. He (and his followers) are still looked down on as being unwanted, unnecessary, even deluded.
In this world, it is critical to remember that the only person whose opinion about us will matter at the end is Jesus. He doesn’t judge us by how we look, what we have or our position in life. Jesus grades on humility. When we find ourselves last in line, our Christian opinion belittled or overlooked, our current situation in life or health (in our eyes) menial or unsatisfying, when we are put down by someone or made to wait, passed over for a promotion or seem to have less than others, all that matters is that we come before God in humility, acknowledging his Lordship and opinion, his will, his mercy, our sins, and to have the humility to go to confession if we need to.