Sunday, Aug. 28, is the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C). Mass Readings: Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29; Psalms 68:4-7, 10-11; Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24; Luke 14:1, 7-14
The Gospel about always seeking the lowest place at table tells us clearly that the places of honor offered on earth are not what they seem.
Jesus, dining at the home of a religious leader, notices not only that people were trying to seek out places of honor, but that they were all watching him carefully to see what choice he made.
His answer: He says to choose the lowest place. He adds that, in creating a party for guests, “Do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors. … Invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.”
He gives different reasons for both decisions, but both are rooted in the fact that our true home, our true resting place, is elsewhere.
Regarding places at the table, he points out that it is better to be upgraded than to be shamed. But it is also true that, at the end of time, “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Regarding dinner guests, he says it is better to skip high society in this life and “be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
If the next life is what is most important, we should minimize our honors and comforts here in order to help us be detached from earthly life and seek what is above.
Today’s second reading, from Hebrews, is a beautiful description of the grandeur of the next life.
We Christians “have approached Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and countless angels in festal gathering, and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven, and God, the judge of all, and the spirits of the just made perfect, and Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant.”
This brief snapshot of heaven is meant to inspire awe in us — and also humility. God is infinitely greater than us, and yet, there in his majestic homeland, he has made (as the Psalm puts it) “a home for the poor.” So why do we often treat this world like it is of utmost importance?
“My child,” says Sirach, “humble yourself the more … and you will find favor with God.”
Jesus Christ himself was “meek and humble of heart,” a poor man who had no home in this life and no tomb of his own when he died: “The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Learn from him.
Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.
His book What Pope Francis Really Said is available for preorder at Amazon.com.