22nd Sunday of OT Year C 2016:
From a certain perspective, Jesus’ words today could come off sounding like a pretty basic guide to keep us from getting embarrassed. It’s almost like: you don’t want to be humiliated at a dinner party, so just be sure that you sit at the low place so you don’t get embarrassed.
But, I think there is something more going on here in this passage. I think that Jesus is not so much giving us a practical lesson on dinner etiquette. Rather, he is passing on a mindset, a mentality. You see, Jesus doesn’t simply give us commands to follow. Rather, he wants us to follow him. The calling of a Christian is not simply to carry out certain actions; rather, we are called to be like Christ, to think like Christ, to love like Christ. Jesus doesn’t want simply to change our actions, he wants to change our hearts and our minds.
But, isn’t that the hard part? In some ways, it would be so much simpler if we just had to change our actions. But, that would only be a part of the picture. He does not just want to cleanse us on the outside, he wants to cleanse us on the inside.
So, this parable can be a pretty good examination of conscience for us. Don’t look to take the places of honor. I know that this is a struggle for me. We all like to be liked and appreciated. Who among us would say that we really want to sit at the lower end of the table. There is a prayer that I like called the litany of humility. One of the prayers in that litany is: deliver me from all human respect.
Growing in humility is not just an option for us. It has to be a necessity. Why is that? If we are going to be like Christ we certainly need to be humble. Christ is the Son of God, and yet he became lowly. He is the king of kings, and he was born in a stable. He is the lord of heaven and earth, and yet he comes to us here in the Eucharist under the forms of bread and wine. We cannot be like Christ if we are not humble. Christ was humble and so we must be as well.
Second: Jesus says, do not invite the wealthy or our family members. Rather, invite the poor, crippled, etc. This is another hard one. In some ways, it’s easy to be nice to people we like. It’s easy to be nice to people who are popular or influential. What about the poor, the marginalized, those who are annoying, those who smell or are dirty. What about the hopeless, the helpless? Again, if we are going to have the mind and heart of Christ, we probably need to change our thinking. It’s easy to be nice to people who are nice, but can we have love in our hearts for all God’s children? Christ loved us all, he died for all of us. He didn’t just die for the people we like, he died for all. So, he asks us to love all as well.
So, here is your homework assignment. Just be aware of your thoughts and feelings this week. Are they Christ like? Do you humbly seek to do God’s will without notice, or do you crave human respect and accolades? Do you love everyone with whom you come in contact, or do you gravitate towards showing kindness only to people you like?
Jesus wants to change our hearts and our minds. He wants us to be like him. Having the mind of Christ and the heart of Christ is no easy thing. But, it’s the pathway to happiness. Christ was humble and he loved all. Today in the gospel, Jesus is calling us to do the same.