HOMILY FOR TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME,
AGORSOR AARON AGBESHIE
ECCLESIATICUS 3:17-20, 28-29/ PSALM 68 / HEBREWS 12:18-19, 22-24/ LUKE 14:1, 7-14
THEME: HUMILITY IS REWARDING
The readings of today (especially the First and Gospel Readings) draw out forcefully the lesson of humility. Pride is the deadliest of the seven deadly sins, while humility is perhaps the most characteristics of Christian values. The humble man finds ‘favour’ in God’s sight not because that favour is a reward for his humility, but because humility like faith, to which it is akin, means abandoning self assertion, all trust in one’s own righteousness and allowing God to act where we can do nothing.
The second reading presents a contrast between the law and the gospel; between Mount Sinai and Mount Zion. Coming to this mountain is the favour which the Lord grants to the ‘humble.’ For St. Augustine, ever since Jesus became man (Incarnation), man has not stop being proud. Humility means accepting one another for as one is. It does not matter whether one is rich or poor; intelligent or unintelligent just to mention few. In God’s sight none of us is better than the other. It is love that calls us together. God‘s Kingdom is not about status, importance, or knowledge. Perfection is not an entrance requirement. It is about incompleteness and vulnerability; it is about falling down and getting up. This is what Jesus stresses in the Gospel reading of today.
In the Gospel, the parable looks like a piece of prudential advice: how to behave at a dinner party so as to avoid embarrassment. But since it is precisely a parable, it deals rather with an aspect of man’s relationship with God. God in the person of Jesus (v.8) is inviting us to the Messianic feast. The only way to respond to this invitation is by the renunciation of any claim or merit of one’s own. The Pharisees expected the best seats as a reward for keeping the Torah, but like the outcast they have to learn that salvation has to be accepted as an unmerited gift- exactly as we interpreted humility in the First Reading. Perhaps Jesus was even overwhelmed that the Pharisees have the audacity to take his place at the banquet. Like the Pharisees, sometimes, we want to take the place of God and even act like God. We call it usurpation of power. God will not allow this. The ensuing exhortation is likewise not a piece of worldly advice, but also a kind of parable, its point being that men’s final acceptance in the Messianic banquet depends on the acceptance of others, now!. For instance, we must learn to forgive one another, assist one another in moments of needs and the like. Thus humility in the Christian sense is not purely a passive virtue; like faith, to which it is so closely akin, it is highly active.
In God’s sight human pride counts for nothing is what Jesus is telling us today. It is faith and humility that God expects of man.
Humility also means recognizing one’s total dependence on God. Why will the humble man be exalted? Certainly, the point of the parable is not that one should take the last place, feigning or with a false sense of humility, in order that he might be honoured. This is not what Jesus is saying. Christian humility means that one demeans oneself because one recognizes one’s total dependence on God and leaves the matter of rank and reward completely to him.
Humility also demands of us an acceptance from the hands of God the trials and tribulations of this life. Like Jesus and Mary, such people will be rewarded and exalted by God.
Jesus also speaks to his host about whom to invite for dinner (Luke 14:13-14). Men are accustomed, according to the rules of polite society, to invite their relatives and friends to special affairs; such acts are expected to be reciprocated. For Jesus, this is the love of the sinner and the pagans, which is not in itself Christian love (cf. Luke 6:32-35). In sharp contrast, Jesus advises his host to invite ‘the poor’, ‘the maimed’, ‘the lame’, and ‘the blind’; if he does that he will be blessed by God since they cannot repay him- he will get his reward at the resurrection of the Just. Note well that Jesus is not saying that we should not invite our friends for dinner; rather , he makes use of a common practice to illustrate that a love that is based only on the hope of a return does not have value in the sight of God. Christian love, based on the example of Jesus, is like the love of God in that it does not hope for a return in this life. God himself will see to it that we are repaid at the “Resurrection of the just”
Storey G. Williams (Editor), Days of the Lord, Herder and Herder, New York, 1965, Pp.64-65.
Homiletic & Pastoral Review, July 1971, Pp. 45-47.