03Nov 03 November. Saturday, Week 30

1st Reading: Philippians (1:18-26)

Taking everything in stride, so that he may preach the Gospel

What does it matter? Just this, that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true; and in that I rejoice.

Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance. It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be put to shame in any way, but that by my speaking with all boldness, Christ will be exalted now as always in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labour for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.

Gospel: Luke (14:1, 7-11)

On not choosing the place of honour

On one occasion Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the Sabbath, and they were watching him closely.

When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honour, he told them a parable. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honour, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honoured in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”


Faith, humility and joy

The Christians at Philippi must have asked Paul about people who went round preaching about Jesus as the Messiah, but who did not take part in their Eucharist or prayer-meetings. There is a similar reaction in the gospel where the disciples of Jesus want to silence other preachers (Lk 9:49-50). In both cases a kind of religious envy is something to be avoided. Paul says that whenever anyone proclaims Christ, whatever may be the preacher’s motive, he is happy to hear of it. He reduces the entire gospel to that single word, “Christ,” who lives as our risen saviour.. For “it is not ourselves we preach but Jesus Christ as Lord” (2 Cor 4:4-5).

Unlike the evangelists, Paul’s written message records very little about the words and deeds of Jesus. Rather his focus is on the risen Jesus, alive now within the community. Every action and word among the believers becomes an action or statement of the “body of Christ.” What joy filled the heart of Paul by simply contemplating the risen Christ. With this joyful faith he felt he could sweep aside all rancour and envy among the faithful.

Too many good people want their merits to be recognized and pull rank in order to “sit in the place of honour.” In today’s parable Jesus kindly adapts himself to this weakness so common in otherwise good people. “Sit in the lowest place.. so that the host will say, ‘My friend, come up higher,’ then you will win esteem.” He seems to say, ‘If you must win esteem, at least go about it in a proper, civilized way.’ The gospel ends with the most difficult challenge of all, humility. The call to be humble is such a stumbling block that even believers need to see exaltation offered as a reward.

Avoid the top table

Jesus smiles at people who seek honour for themselves. At the meal one day, he noticed how some of the guests went out of their way to pick the places of honour. In response Jesus offers a parable that is critical of this kind of self-promoting behaviour. It suggests that we should not be seeking to be honoured by others. What matters is how we are seen by God. We need to live in such a way that God will honour us in the hereafter.

We may not always get our due in this life. But if we live in a way that is shaped by the gospel, God will honour us after death ‘when the virtuous rise again.’ Any praise or honour we might receive in this life fade into insignificance compared to what God has in store for us. That is why as followers of Jesus we are not to worry about whether their merits are recognized by others. Any good we may do is worthwhile, even if unrecognized by others. We need not worry about public recognition, since what really matters is how God sees us.


(Saint Malachy of Armagh, bishop)

Máel Máedóc or Malachy (1094-1148) was the first native born Irish canonised saint. He became abbot of Bangor, in 1123, later bishop of Down and Connor, and primate of Armagh (1132). In 1139 he journeyed to Rome, visiting Saint Bernard at Clairvaux, where he found monks for the first Cistercian Abbey in Ireland, (Mellifont, 1142.) In 1148 Malachy set off for Rome a second time, but fell ill at Clairvaux and died there. Portions of his relics were sent to Ireland in 1194 and kept at Mellifont and other Cistercian abbeys.

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