01Sep 01 September, 2019. 22nd Sunday (C)

1st Reading: Sirach/ Ecclesiasticus 3:17-20, 28-29

A person attentive to God will never reject wisdom

My child, perform your tasks with humility;
then you will be loved by those whom God accepts.
The greater you are, the more you must humble yourself;
so you will find favor in the sight of the Lord.
For great is the might of the Lord;
but by the humble he is glorified.

When calamity befalls the proud, there is no healing,
for an evil plant has taken root in him.
The mind of the intelligent appreciates proverbs,
and an attentive ear is the desire of the wise.

Responsorial: Psalm 67: 4-7, 10-11

Response: God, in your goodness, you have made a home for the poor

The just shall rejoice at the presence of God,
they shall exult and dance for joy.
O sing to the Lord, make music to his name;
rejoice in the Lord, exult at his presence. (R./)

Father of the orphan, defender of the widow,
such is God in his holy place.
God gives the lonely a home to live in;
he leads the prisoners forth into freedom. (R./)

You poured down, O God, a generous rain:
when your people were starved you gave them new life.
It was there that your people found a home,
prepared in your goodness, O God, for the poor. (R./)

2nd Reading: Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24

Mount Sinai prefigures our destiny, in the future, glorious Zion

You have not come to something that can be touched, a blazing fire, and darkness, and gloom, and a tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that not another word be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even an animal touches the mountain, it shall be stoned to death.” Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.”

You have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant.

Gospel: Luke 14:1, 7-14

Place-seeking at a banquet: Jesus urges humility

As Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely. When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable.

“When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, 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 honored 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.”

He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not (just) invite your friends or your relatives or rich neighbours, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”



We do not save ourselves

Psalm 15 praises the one who “takes no interest on a loan,” promising that “Such a one will stand firm for ever.” Until the late Middle Ages, the Church condemned as sinful the charging of interest on a loan. Since Christians were excluded from lending at interest, Jews had a virtual monopoly on banking. But when banking became essential for trade, theologians came to apply those biblical passages not to interest as such, but profiting from the misfortunes of others. The Jews had separate rules about lending to each other and lending to foreigners: “You may take interest on a loan to a foreigner, but you must not take interest from your brother” (Deut 23:21).

This is much more humane than today’s globalised capitalism, ruled by the iron law of supply and demand. The greater the demand, the more we can charge for  goods and services. The core of raw capitalism is, “Maximum profit from every deal. If it’s is not profitable, get rid of it.” In a market forces environment, benevolence and compassion have no place.

The transactional method can infect our personal sphere too, if we seek to be absolute masters of our own destiny. It’s mistaken to imagine that we can save ourselves. It can even seem a devotional thought: “I’m going to save my soul and win myself a place in heaven.” As if we could store up credits to be later shown to God, and claim eternal life on the basis of strict justice, like a cash transaction.

The underlying problem is illustrated in today’s Gospel. It is the error of pharisaism, their self-sufficiency, their lack of true humility. They vied for the places of honour, which they saw as rightly theirs for strictly observing the Law. We, too, can fall into that error and forget our complete dependence on the grace of God, freely offered and unmerited. We can be so self-absorbed and ungenerous, that the very idea of giving a helping hand to the poor and the needy, is foreign to us.

In his parable, Jesus says, “Accept others; be open to them. Don’t build walls against others, or belittle them.” Better to situate ourselves among the poor, the lame and the blind. We are invited into God’s banquet-hall, out of sheer good will. We are invited so that divine mercy and goodness may be shown to all the world. But we could resist this free gift by thinking it unnecessary. We might secretly pray, “Lord, I’m a pretty decent person. I go to Mass on Sundays. I contribute to collections. I don’t slander people or do them harm. In fact, Lord, I reckon I’m all you could expect of me.”

Jesus rejects pride like this, because it is the opposite of the deeper truth. Our salvation cannot be deserved, cannot be claimed, for the grace of God is a pure gift. It is better to come to God as a beggar with this simple request: “Lord, help me.” We need to accept our limitations, and realise our need for Christ’s redeeming power in our lives. Grace is most clearly present for one who knows that she or he is needy. As St Paul puts it, “I am content with my weaknesses and with insults, hardships, persecutions, for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:9f).

Putting aside pride

Part of today’s business culture is assertiveness training, aggressive marketing and general one-up-manship. In this context the call to self-effacement, gentleness and respect for non-influential people seems like nostalgia for a more gentle age, a bygone world. Signs of pride are all around us. The media too glibly distinguish between “Winners” and “Losers.” Hierarchy, whether in church or state, at work or recreation, is highly prized. As in Luke’s Gospel, seating plans are carefully arranged and the pecking order tightly observed. If arrangements go awry we feel offended, even slighted. Are these ceremonial positions, then, matters of true significance, that reflect our value in God’s sight?

In the opening prayer we ask God to bring our gifts to perfection. Whatever we have, talent, wealth or the ambition which enables us to achieve, we have it from God. If “a generous rain” has been poured on us, if we have been given a home to live in, if we are in a comfortable position it is by the gift of God and we are meant to be sharers and carers.

If we let pride rule our heart, we turn aside from God. It is illusory to devote ourselves to social climbing and seek the glare of the camera. We need to not take social and financial celebrity so seriously. Remember how other people live lives of quiet desperation, plagued with want and anxiety. If we pass them in the street, why not show some respect and compassion?

In the city of the living God, everyone is like a firstborn child. As members of God’s family, we all have equal dignity. Can we reshape our lifestyle in the light of this? We are not required to deny our gifts, just to know them as God-given and act responsibly towards those less gifted or otherwise gifted.

True Wisdom

What is wisdom, according to the mind of Christ? The gospel poses this challenge within the context of a parable. In it, Jesus wants his disciples to be counter-cultural, regarding status-seeking and all ambition. They must stand out against prevailing social mores based on class, status, aggression and dominance. The woman or man who, as a believing Christian takes their guidance from Christ, will live by a different vision.

In order to follow Jesus, gentleness, compassion, acceptance of the other, must be part of our way of life. In a society based on ambition, aggression, “going for it” regardless of consequences, being meek and humble can seem like a recipe for social disaster. But this is the point. What the Gospel presents the direction we must take in order to build a just society with room in it for all. Violence of whatever kind is a recipe for disaster for humanity. Yet this is a hard lesson to learn. We are afraid to lose face or status. We connive in an unjust status quo, while pretending to be Christian.

Jesus wants his followers to live life to the full. “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10). But our joie de vivre should include gratitude and humility. Real humility is not weakness. Gentleness is not cowardice. Humility is based on genuine self-awareness. We need these qualities if we are to live at peace with our neighbours. They are essential  if we are serious about changing our world to better reflect the will of God.

Saíocht agus Úmhalaíocht

Sé toil Íosa duinn go mbainfí taitneamh as an saol.   (“Tháinig mise chun go mbeadh an bheatha acu, agus go mbeadh sí acu go fial”  Eoin 10:10).  Ba cheart dúinn aoibhneas a bhaint as an saol go buíoch agus go humhal .   Níl laige ag baint leis an umhlaíocht, ach fíor ionracas .  Fásann an umhlaíocht as féin eolas  agus cneastacht .  Tá gá le tréithe cineálta na síochána mar ‘ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine’.   Gach uair a chabhraimíd le daoine agus a ghlacaimid cabhair uatha,  déanaimid malairt dearfach inár saol chun toil Dé a chomhlíonadh.

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