Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Luke 14:1, 7-14
“In the first reading, Sirach, the name of this book, derives from the name of the author, mentioned in the book. The author was Yeshua (or Jesus in English), the son of Sira. This book was written in Egypt, by Jewish immigrants from the Holy Land, or possibly by descendants of such immigrants, around 132 BC. The date of composition can be determined because the forward says that it was authored during the reign of Pharaoh Ptolemy VII. The dates of this reign are known.
This book is among those biblical volumes collectively called the Wisdom Literature. This designation means that these books attempt to show that the Jews’ ancient faith in the one God of Israel, and their insistence that God’s law be obeyed, are in no way illogical or unwise.
To the contrary, to possess genuine wisdom means that a person realizes the fact that God lives and reigns and also knows that all persons and all things are subject to God.
This weekend’s reading expressly refers to humility. While humility more often is associated with Christian theology and spirituality, it was a virtue very much admired, and evident, in the Old Testament.
On the opposite side of the coin, the Old Testament disdained pride.
For instance, David, whom God had chosen to be king, rebelled against God and sinned. It was David’s pride – and lust.
In the end, David humbly turned back to God, repenting his sins.
The Epistle to the Hebrews is the source of the second reading. Strong with its Hebrew symbolism and references to Hebrew history, this reading recalls that the ancient followers of Moses, the Hebrews escaping slavery in Egypt, with trepidation, had crossed the forbidding Sinai Peninsula and even turned away from God.
Yet God came to Moses on the mountaintop to guide him, the people’s leader, and they found the Promised Land.
Jesus is our guide.
St. Luke’s Gospel supplies the last reading. In this story, the Lord is guest at a meal in the home of a Pharisee. Jesus uses the occasion to warn that no one should seek the highest place. Rather, the humble who is content with a lesser place will be called to higher distinction.
In addition to its obvious call to humility, the reading makes two other points. The first point is that God cannot be tricked into tolerating anyone’s self-engineered passage to the kingdom. The second point, so typical of Luke’s particular insight, is that property is not so absolute in its ownership that the owner can clutch it while others are in great want.
Emphasizing the call to humility is the detail that a Pharisee is the host. Pharisees, well schooled in Jewish theology, supposedly knew much about life, but Jesus had to instruct this Pharisee and his guests.
Followers of Jesus always have treasured humility, a virtue revered in the Old Testament. Humility so long has been seen as indispensable to holiness, the common denominator among all the saints, men and women, of whatever circumstances, from every place on earth.
Of course, humility means that a person does not overestimate his or her personal worth. None of us, however talented, is somehow almighty. In essence, no role, skill, possession, or function raises anyone above another in having access to the eternal banquet of heaven.
Humility, however, does not debase or deny human dignity and potential. The reading from Hebrews reminds us of our extraordinary worth, as Christians and as humans. The very Son of God has redeemed us!
Importantly, humility follows true wisdom. The humble do not belittle themselves. Rather, they simply realize their need for God, understanding what God’s mercy has done for them.
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