The values of the KingdomSunday Mass Readings Podcast of Readings Video Reflections Lecturas y Comentarios Sunday Readings Bible StudyPrayer of the HoursBurning Question: Do you invite the poor to your banquet?
Sunday Readings for Aug. 29, 2010 (22C)
By Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S.
The description of the dinner party in Luke 14 makes me glad to have missed it. It could not have been very pleasant for anyone; tension is thick and almost everyone seems to be worried about the impression he or she is making. The religious leaders are watching Jesus and Jesus is observing the behavior of both host and guests.
Jesus challenges the ordinary behavior of the guests, who are scrambling for a better place around the table. In the form of a story, Jesus reminds the guests of the wisdom from Proverbs about allowing the host to invite them to an honored place rather than choosing the best seat for themselves. His teaching, seemingly about table manners, is actually about the values of the Kingdom.
Then Jesus addresses the host and conventional understandings of hospitality. Don’t worry about your status and benefit when you welcome people, he says. Overcome your concerns about reinforcing useful or reciprocal relationships. Do something really different, Jesus suggests. Invite to your parties the people who seem to bring little with them. The blessing, recognition and benefit you are worried about will come, though not through the means you expected.
The freedom that comes with knowing we are loved and sustained by God is a freedom to give generously of ourselves and our resources, to give the best place to others without concern. Because of our confidence in God’s larger purposes, followers of Jesus can take risks and remain secure, welcome status reversals and live without fear.
When our security is located in God, in Jesus who is "the same yesterday and today and forever," we can deal with the unpredictability and the risks of seeking righteousness. We can show hospitality to needy strangers, spend time with prisoners and share our resources with the poor because God has promised never to forsake us.
In reflecting on people for whom the word "righteous" seems appropriate, I am reminded of the way the children in C. S. Lewis’s Narnia stories come to view Aslan, the lion. He is good but not safe. We too are free to be good when we are unaffected by social conventions and expectations that tame us and render us predictable and safe. We can take risks because our place with God is secure; we can bear burdens because we are upheld by God’s gracious hand. Worrying about position and recognition will keep us susceptible to the latest version of status-seeking and a fear of losing our place. Such anxieties keep us tame, but we don’t need to settle for being tame when we can risk much more.
In The Fragility of Goodness, author Martha Nussbaum writes, "The peculiar beauty of human excellence just is its vulnerability." Goodness is fragile and its vulnerability is part of its beauty. But in the gospel of today, it is not the fragility of goodness that stands out but the sturdiness of humility.
The humble have hearts that are steady and firm. In scripture the humble ones are gracious, merciful, generous and unafraid of bad news. Their hearts are secure in God. The humble person is a risk taker who invites all the wrong people to a party and doesn’t worry about being seen with the right people. The humble person associates with the weak rather than with the powerful. When our security and identity rest in God, it is less difficult to choose the way of humility. Instructions not to put yourself forward in the king’s presence and not to worry about where you’ll be seated are not antiquated etiquette. They are teachings about faithfulness and humility that make sense within God’s larger purposes.“What makes humility so desirable is the marvelous thing it does to us; it creates in us a capacity for the closest possible intimacy with God.”
(Monica Baldwin)“The closest distance between you and God
is the mere distance between your knees and the floor”
“Humility is like underwear, essential but indecent if it shows”