August 24, 2010 // Uncategorized

Heirs of Christ

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lk 14:1, 7-14

The first reading for this weekend’s liturgy is from the Book of Sirach. This book is from that class of biblical writings called the Wisdom Literature, in general, a class of writings representing an effort to combine traditional Jewish belief with the highest of human wisdom.

The purpose is not to blend these two elements together so that neither has integrity and identity of its own. It is not to equate one with the other, but instead to see great value in human wisdom, but more to the point, that sound human logic has no quarrel for divine Revelation.

This reading is a statement addressed to a male child (or grandson). Imagining the origins suggested by this style of writing in itself reveals how the Wisdom Literature developed in many cases. Primarily, these books were formed outside the Holy Land. Immigrants from the Holy Land to distant, foreign and pagan places wrote many of these books.

These authors wished to convince their own children of the worth of the ancient Hebrew religion, so that the religion would survive into the future through the lives of the young.

In this weekend’s reading, the author of the book, Ben Sira, or son of Sira, tells his son to live his life with humility. Be humble in dealing with others. Humility, not aggressiveness, wins friends and true supporters.

For the second reading, the Church gives us a section of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Heavy with the richest imagery of the Old Testament, Hebrews both sublimely describes Jesus as the Lamb of God and as the Messiah long promised by God, but it calls Christians to realize their unity with Christ in their faith.

Through and with Jesus, true disciples go forward through their own life experiences to meet God on the holy mountain, Zion.

St. Luke’s Gospel is the source of the last reading. It is a parable. Etiquette at the time of Jesus was very important and exacting. Nothing was greater than to be invited to join another in a meal, unless it was to invite another to a meal.

As to conversation in these social settings, bold assertiveness, and certainly criticism of the host, absolutely were out of place.

An atmosphere of unspoken deceit surrounds this meal. The Pharisees at the dinner watch Jesus intently, not to learn but to discredit the Lord. They are too smug to learn. Self-centered, they vie for places of honor.

Jesus spoke frankly and very bluntly. He rebuked the ambitious Pharisees. It needed to be said.

Reward belongs to God. He gives it to those deserving of it, not in human eyes, but in God’s eyes. We cannot grasp a place at God’s banquet table. Humble in our sinfulness and in our humanity, we must await God’s invitation.

Humility usually is misunderstood, and in any event it is not cherished in this culture. For decades now, people have been urged to act on impulse and speak their mind, regardless of the effect upon others. “Honesty” has become almost the supreme virtue.

Deceit is hardly a better way. It is not better to be silent in the face of wrong, or to surrender self to the control of others than to trick anyone. This parable teaches that humans are limited. They are limited in their abilities to perceive accurately, and to act appropriately.

For this reason, God’s Revelation, made perfect in Christ, is the greatest of gifts. Focusing upon Jesus, humans have before them the best and surest of guides.

To see the Lord, and then to follow the Lord, humans must humbly admit who and what they are. They are limited, but as Hebrews powerfully assures, they are redeemed, heirs with Christ of the heavenly kingdom.  

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