Sunday: 22 nd Sunday of Ordinary Time Date: August 28, 2016. Year: C The readings: [Sir. 3:17-20, 28-29; Heb. 12:18-19, 22-24a; Lk. 14:1, 7-14] The message: The meaning of true humility. Prepared by: Catholic Doors Ministry Total words: 2045
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Welcome my brothers and sisters in Christ to today's celebration of the Holy Mass on the twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time. For many of the children, this week means the end of the Summer holidays and the beginning of another fruitful school year. For many of the working parents, it means returning to their regular routine and less worries about finding responsible babysitters. I pray that by the grace of the Heavenly Father and the power of the Holy Spirit, that all of you, the children and the parents, may successfully achieve your short-term and long-term goals in the coming months for the joy and peace of Christ to reign in your families.
This week, while reviewing today's readings, I noticed a key word that shined forth as a star in the sky. The word was humility. Therefore, today's sermon will be based on the virtue of humility.
Today's First Reading from the Book of Sirach teaches us that if we perform our tasks with humility, we will be loved by those whom God accepts. The greater we are, the more we must humble ourselves, so we will find favour in the sight of the Lord. [Sir. 3:17-18] When Jesus taught His disciples the meaning of true greatness, He called a child and said, "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greater in the Kingdom of Heaven." [Mt. 18:2-4]
The natural tendency of an innocent child is to love everyone, to show respect and to share whatever he has, be it his toys or his food. Competition at all costs is not a natural tendency of the child. It is a learned behaviour. As we all know, once a child has been corrupted by his environment, he becomes self-centered. Depending on how severely he has been corrupted, he may seek honour at any cost. This is very noticeable during olympic and sport events where every participant wants to become number one. Everyone competes to win that famous golden medal that elevates the individual above all the others. What may have started as just a local "fun" competition often leads to regional, national and international competitions. And then, as is often observed, as the glory that awaits the winner increases, less humility is found in the participants, especially the winners.
Those who obtain their glory here on earth, they will not receive any in Heaven. Such can never happen! Why? It is because worldly fame is not the same as spiritual glory! Worldly fame is self-seeking glory. Spiritual glory means giving the honours to God. When an athlete wins an event, he is the winner. He is the one who becomes famous! Contrary to this kind of glory, when a teacher instructs students in Bible lessons on a weekly basis so her brothers and sisters in Christ may grow in their knowledge of the Lord God and His way, through all such dedication, the teacher usually has nothing to gain. There is no competition. This service of love is performed for the glory of God. While the teacher may go unnoticed for years, many thinking that her position is trivial, God has His eyes fixed on her. He is counting her hours, her days, her weeks, her months and years of dedication, preparing for her a Heavenly reward that will be worthy of her self-sacrifice for the love of others.
Similar to the teacher who performs such dedication, anyone can practice humility, each in their own way. Humility begins by not discriminating against others because of their age, their gender, their occupation, their nationality, their culture, etc... In the eyes of God, we are all equal. The only thing that makes us different is our hearts. Some have a heart of flesh and some have a heart of stone. [Ezek. 11:19; 36:26] The heart of flesh is the better one!
Humility is practiced by providing the opportunity for others to be heard. When attending class, study groups, meetings, there is no humility when one or two persons always take over as if the others did not exist, The others cannot grow in knowledge and wisdom unless they are allowed to participate in the group, whatever it may be. It takes a lot of humility to sit back and to be silent, even to allow others to make mistakes without condemning them, so they too may grow in knowledge and wisdom.
As history has taught us, sometimes the Holy Spirit speaks to adults through children. In such cases, humility consists of listening to what the children have to say. This ensures that divinely inspired words through a child are not being ignored because of personal pride.
Humility is also found in families where both parents are united as one in their decision making process. Neither spouse strives to control the other one. All decisions are made in harmony and love, both spouses humbly respecting each other.
During today's Gospel reading, we heard Jesus talking about where the guests should sit at the table when invited somewhere. As a general rule in a fixed system, the most distinguished guest sits at the right hand of the host where he receives the highest honour. The second most important guest sits at the left side of the host, and so on. While Jesus was aware of this fixed system, he was not presenting a lesson in social etiquette. He used this example of good manners at the table to draw attention to how honour is accredited in the Kingdom of God.
When Jesus pointed out that it is for the host to invite the guest to come and move to a higher position [Lk. 14:10] at the table, He was saying something else. The attendance of the guest at the table depends on an invitation from God. And the reward lies in the growing likeness of God Himself who tells the least worthy to come up higher.
Why is the least worthy raised to a higher place of honour in the Kingdom of God? Elsewhere in the Holy Bible, we find answers to that question. When the disciples were disputing among themselves as to who is the greatest, Jesus said, "For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves." [Lk. 22:27]
In the Letter of Paul to the Philippians, we find a beautiful paragraph that nicely explains the importance of imitating Christ's humility. It states,
"If then, there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete; be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interest of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death - even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." [Phil. 2:1-11]
In other words, as Pope Saint Peter I said, "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you in due time." [1 Pet. 5:6]
God alone, He who knows the hearts, has the authority to elevate those who deserve it. Some people have chosen to elevate themselves above Jesus by founding new religions that are supposed to be better than the Church that has been instituted by Christ on earth. Some have refused to recognize the divinity of Christ, others referring to Jesus as just being a prophet. In due time, these persons will be put in their place by God. To avoid the embarrassment that comes from being lowered, by being put in place by God, it is better to be humbled for now. In time, the Lord God will elevate us who have persevered in our living faith that will have led us to "the way, the truth and the life." [Jn. 14:6]
Jesus' second message in today's Gospel reading is that we should not invite to the table those that we know. By doing so, we only expect that we will be invited by them as their way of showing gratitude for having invited them. A lot of people have a problem with this teaching because it goes against a social tradition. Guests who are invited to a party feel obligated to invite the host in the near future to a party of their own. And if they do not hold a party or invite the host as expected, they are labelled as being heartless. If an invited guest is poor and cannot afford to hold a party to which the host would be invited, he is labelled as being cheap. From that follows a classification system where the rich are associated with the rich versus the poor being associating with the poor.
But, in the Body of Christ, there is no distinctions. We should not be inviting someone to the table because he is rich, famous, educated or because we need a favour in return. We should be inviting them in the love of Christ so they may joyfully share in our meals and feasts. Those who do so, at the resurrection of the righteous, they will be repaid by the Lord God. [Lk. 14:14]
The lesson in today's Second Reading from the Letter to the Hebrews is that we should not relapse into the old way. We are encouraged to persevere to the end of the road so we may receive our heavenly inheritance. Saint Paul had written this letter to the Hebrew to discourage them from lapsing from the New Covenant system back into the Old Covenant. To encourage them, he pointed out the rewards that awaited those who persevered in their living faith.
In his writing, Saint Paul identified four factors that were associated with the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant was given to the people from a distance. It was given by someone else (Moses). It brought fear in the heart of the believers. And it brought the anger of God.
Under the New Covenant, we enjoy the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The New Covenant was given to us by Jesus at the Last Supper. [Mt. 26:28; Mk. 14:24; Lk. 22:20] Jesus "is the mediator of a better Covenant, which has been enacted through better promises." [Heb. 8:6] The New Covenant brought peace to us. And it brought the love of Jesus who brought us to the love of God.
Considering all the advantages that are associated with the New Covenant, we are encouraged to persevere in our living faith. We are encouraged to persevere in humility so we may be humble as Jesus was humble. This week, let us reflect upon these words and ask ourselves if we are humble as we should be. My brothers and sisters in Christ, let us continue with the celebration of the Holy Mass by praying for each other, asking God to grant us true humility so we may find favour in His sight.
"My child, perform your tasks with humility, then you will be loved by those whom God accepts. The greater you are, the more you must humble yourself, so you will find favour in the sight of the Lord. Many are lofty and renowned, but to the humble the Lord reveals his secrets. For great is the might of the Lord: but by the humble he is glorified.
When calamity befalls the proud, there is no healing, for an evil plant has taken root in them.
The mind of the intelligent appreciates proverbs, and an attentive ear is the desire of the wise." [Sir. 3:17-20, 28-9]
"Brothers and sisters: You have not come to something that can be touched, a blazing fire, and darkness, and gloom, and a tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that not another word be spoken to them.
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant." [Heb. 12:18-9, 22-24]
"On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, the lawyers and Pharisees were watching him closely. When Jesus noticed how the guests chose the place of honour, he told them a parable.
When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honour, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invites both of you may come and say to you, 'Give this person your place,' and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place.
But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, 'Friend, move up higher'; then you will be honoured in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
Jesus said also to the Pharisee who had invited him, 'When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or sisters or your relatives or rich neighbours, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." [Lk. 14:1, 7-14]