Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29; Luke 14: 1, 7-14
The gospel humility that Jesus exemplifies for us and we hear about in today’s gospel and first reading from Sirach, is often a virtue that we misunderstand and misinterpret in our lives because it’s vice, pride, is masterful at hiding itself as a false humility, one that we all fall into in our lives. The virtue of humility that scripture calls us towards and Jesus exemplifies has more to do with an interior disposition of our hearts and souls. It is an “at-homeness” with ourselves, who we are, and what we believe. It’s being comfortable in our own skin. This is why Jesus is so often bucking up against the Pharisees as he does in today’s gospel. But for we mortals, we have to look at the whole because we have the Christ within us but we are also the prideful Pharisees that he often confronts. We have heard a great deal the past weeks of Syria crossing the “red line” and I would dare say, that in the spiritual world, the red line that we often have to walk is between this virtue and vice of humility and pride, again, because pride masks it so well.
We don’t know why Jesus is invited to this dinner at the home of one of the Pharisees. He’s out of his element because they wouldn’t have considered him with the same social status or one that can give them something in return. It had to be an uncomfortable situation for him and everyone else because they’re all there looking at him carefully; I know I’d be pretty self-conscious if that were the case. It’s as if he was simply invited to “put on a show for them” to see how he would respond. Would he cross that line that they so often did themselves? We don’t hear the story in its entirety, but before the parable, a sick man with dropsy arrives at the dinner seeking healing. Was that the real intent? How would he respond on the sabbath? Of course, he heals him and sends him on his way, and rather than attacking them and using the method of the pharisees, Jesus tells a story. He tells a story of a banquet and a question of who would be invited.
You see, this wasn’t just a gathering to enjoy each other’s company, it was a spectacle of which one can outdo the other with knowledge or status or understanding of the law, and that’s the pride that Jesus comes in constant conflict with during his faith journey. They would lord it over others thinking themselves superior and better than because of knowledge, but didn’t care much about the people they looked down upon. Of course, Jesus’ actions only inflame them all the more. If humility is that at-homeness within ourselves, there wasn’t much that would get under his skin, and they certainly tried.
Our own pride often gets in the way of the humility Jesus shows and calls us towards in life. It masks well with making choices in life, often for the wrong reason. He goes onto say that even though you may serve the poor, what is your real intention? Is it to empathize with the other or is it for others to look at me in what I do; somehow make myself superior because of what I do. Or the other end, we become the martyr in our “woe is me” thinking, hiding behind God and religion as a false humility. They invited people that can give in return and that can build up their own ego, inflating their pride all the more! Jesus says don’t invite any of them; the poor, the blind, the lame…they’ll keep it real and they’ll keep you real, grounded in who you really are!
As Jesus mentions in the gospel today, if we want that greatness in our lives, it doesn’t come by abusing our power and lording it over others, or for that matter, having a low self-worth, but he says you must first humble yourself. We must first let go of who we think we are or what we think we are. We must let go of our idea that somehow God didn’t create us “good enough” and sulk in our own pride. We must let go of the illusions we hold of ourselves and dare to cross the red line in our spiritual lives to a life of humility and then the greatness will follow.
As we come to this banquet feast today, what is the disposition of our hearts and souls? Are we here for the right reasons, to be fed, recognizing my own weakness and frailty as a human being, seeking eyes to see the Christ in all? Or is it to punch the card? Is it to be seen? Is it out of fear that somehow God just might be watching today? That’s often our own pride, the pharisee within us, coming for the wrong reasons. But if that’s the case, that’s ok! If we seek that humble heart and to be like Jesus, our intentions and motivations can be purified and the disposition of our hearts and souls may be freed to we can truly see the greatness that already exists within us, we can be comfortable in our own skin, so that when we do buck up against the pharisee within ourselves, we can choose the humble way, the way of Jesus which opens our eyes to the gift within; that we truly are sons and daughters of God.