22 Sunday C: Who do you invite? Who are your friends?


Gospel reading: Luke 14:1;7-11
J Supper
Michel de Verteuil
General Textual comments

The passage for our meditation today is difficult. It would seem that Jesus is encouraging us to be sly and manipulative, to take the lowest place so that we might be invited to go higher; the strategy that we in Trinidad know as “playing dead to catch corbeau alive.” This, of course, cannot be the way to read this parable, since we know from the rest of the gospels that Jesus condemned all forms of deviousness, and St Paul captured his spirit by telling us that our ‘yes’ should be ‘yes’ and our ‘no’, ‘no’.
Jesus and parables

We must know how to read parables; our problem is that parables are a way of teaching we are not accustomed to in our cultures. We are much more used to edifying stories which tell us of good people whom we are invited to imitate. But a parable is different: its purpose is to capture one particular moment, a deep moment when we experience grace in some way. If – as often happens in the parables of Jesus – there are details in the story, they are there to stimulate our imagination and so to help us re-live that moment in our own experience. Jesus’ parables evoke for us the exciting moment when, for example, we suddenly realize that the long time of waiting for the crops to grow is over, and it is time to reap; the moment of hurt and resentment when we see someone who has worked only one hour getting the same reward as we who worked all day in the sun; the moment when we see clearly how mean we have been in harbouring resentment at some little wrong that a friend has done to us, although we have been greatly blessed in many other ways.
Today’s parable invites us to enter into two precious moments. Don’t hurry; take each one separately and stay some time with it. The first is in verses 8 and 9: we suddenly discover that we have claimed for ourselves a place that is too high for us; we are not as selfless, generous or compassionate as we thought we were, while we see before us people who really possess these qualities. We had accepted the role in which the community had placed us – as priest or religious or “prominent Catholic” – but in a crisis our frailty is revealed to ourselves alone or to the community; to our embarrassment, we go and take the lowest place. The parable is telling us that when grace comes into our lives it is like that, it is always an opportunity for spiritual growth, painful though it may be.
On the other hand, there is the experience of verse 10, that touching moment that happens every once in a way, when we are made to feel good about ourselves. We were looking after a sick relative, minding a neighbour’s child, working hard at our job, doing it all without fuss but taking for granted that it was the right thing to do; then a person, a Bible passage, or a spiritual book showed us that we were doing something wonderful and, in fact, living the story of Jesus.
The parable conveys exactly the atmosphere of the last judgment in Chapter 25 of St Matthew’s gospel, where the virtuous are quite surprised that their little acts of kindness were really done to Jesus, and the wicked suddenly realize that they had neglected to serve him. Today’s passage shows us that it is not merely a teaching about the last judgment, but about what always happens when God touches us.
Be careful about applying verses 8 and 9 to others, as you could easily fall into a self-righteous or judgmental reading. But feel very free in letting verse 10 remind you of people you admire, the kind of people who, when you praise them are surprised or even embarrassed – “I was only doing what anyone in my position would do.” The parable is telling you to think of someone like that, and you will have an idea of what it is to be a Christian. Enter into the concreteness of the parable, remembering people that you don’t have to worry about when you invite them to your home or to a function; you know that they will be happy with whatever they find. Enter into their spirituality, the deep attitude which makes them like that, and thank God for them.
humilityYou might like to identify with the host in the parable, the people in your life who have shown you your weaknesses and made you take the lowest place where you belonged. At the time, you were angry with them, but today, as you meditate on the passage, you thank God that he sent them to help you grow spiritually. Thank him too for the one who invited you to see your greatness and to experience yourself honoured by all those who sit at table with you, your family or church community. Admire the insightfulness of the host, and his courage; this will suggest to you the role of the Christian in a community, or that of the Church in society – to expose all forms of phoniness on the one hand, and on the other to invite little people to take their rightful place of honour, even if it means that those in high places will be embarrassed.
J washes feetThe passage ends with verse 11, another of Jesus’ great sayings; we know that the first Christians loved it very much because it is found several times in the gospels, and in different contexts. There is no need to join it to the parable (although you may find that it sums up its message for you); you can concentrate on entering into its truth in a new and deeper way than ever before, and this could be the special grace that God has in store for you this Sunday. The saying is sometimes taken to mean that there is something wrong in holding high office, or even in wanting to, or that it is necessarily virtuous to chose a lowly position in a community. In fact, choosing a lowly position could be an evasion of a responsibility which God wants us to assume. There are many passages in the Bible which correct such false interpretations. In any case, the saying is not dealing with that question at all.
We can interpret those who humble themselves as the little people in a community, those who go about their business even though they are not given due recognition. Those who exalt themselves would be those who consider themselves superior to others, and oppress them with their superior attitudes. The saying then becomes a prayer of thanksgiving like the Magnificat, or a prayer of trust, leaving to God the work of establishing his kingdom of peace and justice. It also becomes a challenge to us to play our part in correcting the imbalances of society.
You can also read the saying as a paradoxical law of spiritual growth. There is a strong tendency in our culture to be self-centered in our desire to grow spiritually. Jesus is telling us that if we try too much to measure our spiritual growth, we end up regressing. If we leave ourselves in God’s hands, letting him do the exalting, as it were, we give ourselves space to grow. St Francis expressed this attitude perfectly when he said: “What I am before God is what I am, and nothing more.” Don’t remain abstract at this point: remember the moment when you understood this law, and moved away from preoccupation with yourself, and thank God for sending you Jesus to teach you through a friend or a spiritual guide. Pray for someone who is making that same mistake, that they may experience the “exaltation” that flows from total trust in God’s love, which is what the saying means by humbling ourselves.
The Earth and us are all in God's loving hands
                  We are, all of us, in God’s loving hands
Look back, then, to verse 1 in the passage, and see Jesus in that hostile environment, perfectly free, not afraid to accept an invitation to have a meal with people who he knew did not share his values. The secret to his freedom is, of course, precisely the attitude he taught in this parable: he knew that he was in his Father’s hands, and that was sufficient for him. Compare him with those others who were picking the places of honour, and recognize two attitudes which we have all adopted at times, and which we have seen in our communities.
Seeing ourselves******************************************
Thomas O’Loughlin,

Introduction to the Celebration
Today at our meal in this house we recall a Sabbath day meal when Jesus saw how people sought out places of honour at the table, and he reminded them that the values of the kingdom are the opposite of the earthly values of power and prestige: in the kingdom the humble shall be exalted. Now let us reflect on how we have gathered for this meal with Jesus: do we see each other as sisters and brothers; do we see ourselves as servants to each other; and do we see ourselves as the servants of all who are poor.
Gospel NotesThis story is found only in Luke. The omission of vv 2-6 is a piece of careful editing as it removed a healing story which, if left with today’s gospel, would have confused its message. Given that this text is being interpreted in the context of a Sunday Eucharist, it is an ideal text for exegesis in a homily.
Homily Notes
1. One of the problems that beset the early generations of Christians was disputes at the Eucharistic meal over the rich looking after themselves and disputes over precedence in a highly stratified society. Indeed, these difficulties may have been responsible for the way the ritual community meal de­veloped into the ritual formal meal that we know as ‘The Eucharist’ (a name that emerged in the second century for a specific religious ritual). Luke was fully aware of these difficulties as in Acts he presents an idealised ‘original period’ that he wants communities to take as their model for how they should behave at this meal. So when Luke presents Jesus at a Sabbath meal teaching on how people should behave at a meal if they are wise, he wants his audience to see this teaching as applying directly to them and their behav­iour at the Sunday meal.
2. So hearing this gospel today at our Sunday Eucharist is a di­rect invitation to us to see if our community practice at our sacred meal measures up to Jesus’s teaching.
3. The characteristics are:
Everyone must act with humility. A practical consequence of this is that everyone must see themselves as the servants of the community rather than those whom the community might feel honoured to serve.
FavouritismThere must be no pandering or favouritism for the rich and powerful. Around the Lord’s table there is a state of equality for all are equally there by God’s invitation, grace, and mercy. Practically this has implications when ‘dignitaries’ are present and given special treatment, but it also has implic­ations for ordinary gatherings where there can be special groups that see themselves as being ‘special’ in some way within the community and who seek to have this recognised.
There must be a welcome in the community for the needy ­all those signified by the phrase ‘the poor, crippled, lame, and blind’. This means that the community must be making special efforts to see that no individual or group are excluded from the Lord’s meal or made feel that they are not ‘our sort’.
A tone of genuine welcome and a spirit of service to one an­other should be palpable qualities of the assembly.
The community must be aware of the dangers of a small clique running the parish so that the community’s assembly is only an excuse for their needs for self-importance to be ful­filled.
Rodan's thinkng
4. Asking these questions can be hard, but the more the ques­tions are feared, the more they are needed – and the more there is a need for the community to hear this gospel.
******************************************** 
Sean Goan
Gospel Notes
Once again in Luke’s gospel a meal forms the backdrop to some important teaching of Jesus about the values of the kingdom of God. In ordinary society the normal practice is to be self promoting, always seeking to be one step ahead or to find ways to have one’s reputation enhanced. Jesus sees this as evidence of shallow behaviour, guided by a mistaken notion of a person’s true worth. The value of humility as taught by Jesus is that our understanding of our worth is not dependant on being better than or more important than somebody else. It is not about comparison at all. Our true sense of self worth comes from within. Hence the significance of Jesus’ command to the man who had invited him to the meal. The next time he has a dinner, instead of using it as an occasion to further himself, why doesn’t he invite all those people who can’t repay him? No doubt that suggestion ensured that Jesus was not invited back, but it gently exposes the often shallow ways in which people deal with each other.
Reflection
washing feetHumility is a virtue not much spoken about today. This is the era in which self esteem is promoted, sometimes to the detriment of all other aspects of a person’s development. Of course there is no conflict between true self esteem and the value of humility as taught by Jesus. The problem may be that nowadays humility might be seen as weakness, the humble person might be regarded as a pushover. That would be a mistake and we only have to look to Jesus to see how big a mistake. The philosophy that might is right is capable of unleashing dreadful violence and of inflicting untold damage on human society. It represents the opposite worldview to that preached by Jesus and brings about no real change. However, to live as gently and humbly as Jesus did is to commit oneself to a better world, armed only with a deep conviction that God is love.
****************************************************
4. Donal Neary S.J.
Strange ways
A fellow said – ‘bad enough he was in the pub, but now I have to be beside him at Mass’. Said jocosely, but the point is that everyone is invited to the banquet of Jesus like the gospel today. We never know who we might meet at Mass.
Pope goes to church
Jesus has strange ways of looking on whom to invite and who are the most important.
There were strict codes of place-names and seating at this type of party. Jesus was going to cut through these. He also had upset things earlier by healing a very sick man on the Sabbath. He started talking then about who to invite.
There was no pecking order at his invitation. The narrow door of last week has been pushed wide to let them all in.
The community of Christ doesn’t admit of differences that put us down. He was always saying this, and saying it to the proud and haughty. For others, life had taught them to be humble and they could probably enjoy this feast.
humble peopleHumble people are grateful for small and big things; they pray often and know their need for prayer; they know they have faults and are no better or worse than most, and know they need God’s mercy; they love children because they are childlike at times, and they know they are not humble all the time. They don’t take themselves too seriously and are compassionate to the faults of others. They know who they are – in one way the least of all, but always loved, always forgiven, always a child of God.

Lord, teach me to know myself well,
so that I can better know your love.
****
From the Connections:

THE WORD:
Gospel humility (a key theme of Luke’s Gospel) is not a religious sado-masochism motivated by self-hatred or obsequiousness.  As taught by Christ, humility is an awareness of who we are before God; of our constant need for God and our dependence on God for everything; of the limitlessness of God’s love and forgiveness.  The Jesus of the Gospel, “who, though in the form of God, humbled himself . . . accepting even death on the cross” is the perfect model of the humble servant of God.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus calls us to embrace the attitude of seeking out the “lowest places” at table for the sake of others, promising that at the banquet of heaven God will exalt such humility.  In teaching us to invite to our tables “those who cannot repay you,” Jesus challenges us to imitate the love of God: doing what is right, good and just for the joy of doing so, not out of a sense of duty, self-interest or the need to feel superior or in control.  “Nothing can so effectively humble us before God’s mercy as the multitude of his benefits,” wrote Francis de Sales, “and nothing can so deeply humble us before his justice as our countless offenses against him.”
 
HOMILY POINTS:
Gospel-centered humility realizes that we are not the center of all things but part of a much larger world, humility that is centered in gratitude for all the blessings we have received as a result of the depth of God’s love and not because of anything we have done to deserve it.  Faced with this realization, all we can do is to try and return that love to those around us. 
Humility is the virtue of suspending our own wants and needs in order to consciously seek God in all people and experiences.  True humility is centered in the things of God – love, compassion, mercy, selflessness, tolerance and forgiveness.
The spirit of humility as taught by Jesus is not the diminishing of one’s self but the realization that we share with every human being the sacred dignity of being made in the image and likeness of God.  To be humble as Christ teaches humility is to see one another as God sees us and to rejoice in being ministers to them in their joys and struggles.
God’s banquet table includes places of honor for every poor, hurting, confused soul.  At the Gospel banquet table, we are both guests and servers: We welcome and are welcomed as children of the same God and Father; as sons and daughters of God, we share equally in the bounty of this table; as brothers and sisters in Christ, we are responsible for the protection and maintenance of the vineyard given to us by our loving Father.  

Strangers on a bus
On a cold January morning, a city bus rumbled through the downtown streets.  A teenage girl sat in the last row of seats.  She was talking on a cellphone, crying. 
“But I don’t understand why,” she cried into the phone.  “Baby, please.  Come on, don’t do this . . . Please!  I don’t wanna break up!”
The other passengers on the bus looked straight ahead, unwilling eavesdroppers on this conversation, feeling terrible for this poor girl who was being dumped on the phone.
As the bus came to a stop, an older woman, bundled in a long black coat and wool hat, stood up and grabbed her bags.  Pausing for a moment before getting off, she turned to the crying girl.
“He’s not worth it, honey,” the woman said.
The girl flashed her eyes at the woman.  “Shut up!” she yelled.  “Just mind your business!  Shut up!”
The woman did not yell back.  She looked softly at the girl, and said, “One day you’re going to want to apologize to me.  And I won’t be here.”
A passenger on that bus writes of the encounter:
“While the rest of us ignored the girl’s cries, the woman did not.  She likely saw herself in the girl.  The woman knew how the story ended.  ‘It’s not worth it’ meant ‘I have been there.  Trust me.  I know your tears.’  It was humanity in front of our eyes.
“I often hope that I am like that woman: wise and willing to reach out to a stranger . . . [but] more often, I can identify with the girl.  It’s easier to be closed off, defensive.  It’s easier to deflect kindness.”
[From “Strangers on a Bus” by Sarah Kess, The Boston Globe Magazine, July 14, 2013.]
 
More often than we realize, the “banquet” of today’s Gospel can be a simple offering of support, empathy and encouragement.  At God’s banquet table, sometimes we are the guest: we are welcomed and are served by God in the guise of compassionate and understanding family, friends and sometimes strangers.  And sometimes we are the waiter, enabling others to share in the bounty of God’s table.  Jesus asks all who would be his disciples to embrace a spirit of faith-centered humility that enables us to see beyond appearances and labels in order to welcome one another as brothers and sisters, children of the God who is Father of every one of us.  
*****
ILLUSTRATIONS: 

Did you hear about the minister who said he had a wonderful sermon on humility but was waiting for a large crowd before preaching it?
--------------------
1.     A young man in a Train

A young man entered the coach of a train in a small university town in France. The ink was scarcely dry on his newly acquired diploma. 

As the train sped off for Paris, he took his seat in the rear of the coach near an elderly gentleman who seemed to be dozing. As the train suddenly lurched, a string of rosary beads fell from his hand. The young man picked up the rosary and handed it to the elderly gentleman with the remark, "I presume you are praying, sir?"

"You are right. I was praying." 

"I am surprised," said the young fellow, "that in this day and age there is someone who is still so benighted and superstitious. Our professors at the university do not believe in such things," and he proceeded to "enlighten" his elderly fellow-passenger.

The old man expressed surprise and amazement.

"Yes," continued the young man, "today enlightened people don't believe in such nonsense."
"You don't say!" replied the old man.
"Yes, sir, and if you wish, I can send you some illuminating books."
"Very well," said the old man, preparing to leave as the train came to a stop. "You may send them to this address." He handed the young man a card, which read:

Louis Pasteur
Director of the Institute of Scientific Research
Paris 

2.     A real Pane! 

Somebody was called in to substitute the famous Billy Graham at the last minute. He was aware of the awesome responsibility of substituting such a man. As he sat in this huge church pondering he looked up and noticed the beautiful stain glass windows and a little piece of cardboard stuck in where a piece had broken. So in his sermon he compared himself with that piece of cardboard to fill in. 

After the service, as he shook hand with the members, a woman came to him and said, “Preacher, I just wanted you to know that you were not the cardboard. You were a real pane!”
-------------------
3.     The funeral of Charlemagne 

I like the story historians tell about the funeral of Charlemagne. Charlemagne was the greatest Christian ruler of the early Middle Ages. After his death a mighty funeral procession left his castle for the cathedral at Aix. When the royal casket arrived, with a lot of pomp and circumstance, it was met by the local bishop, who barred the cathedral door. 

"Who comes?" the Bishop asked, as was the custom.
"Charlemagne, Lord and King of the Holy Roman Empire," proclaimed the Emperor's proud herald.
"Him I know not," the Bishop replied. "Who comes?"
The herald, a bit shaken, replied, "Charles the Great, a good and honest man of the earth."
"Him I know not," the Bishop said again. "Who comes?"
The herald, now completely crushed, responded, "Charles, a lowly sinner, who begs the gift of Christ."  

To which the Bishop, Christ's representative, responded, "Enter! Receive Christ's gift of life!" 

The point, of course, is that in God's eyes, we're all equally needy. Charlemagne, Mother Teresa, you and me. None of us will ever be "good enough" to force entrance into the presence of God.  

Alex Gondola, Jr., Come As You Are, CSS Publishing Company
--------------------
4.     Professor Washington

A truly humble man is hard to find, yet God delights to honor such selfless people. Booker T. Washington, the renowned black educator, was an outstanding example of this truth. Shortly after he took over the presidency of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, he was walking in an exclusive section of town when he was stopped by a wealthy white woman. Not knowing the famous Mr. Washington by sight, she asked if he would like to earn a few dollars by chopping wood for her. Because he had no pressing business at the moment, Professor Washington smiled, rolled up his sleeves, and proceeded to do the humble chore she had requested. When he was finished, he carried the logs into the house and stacked them by the fireplace. A little girl recognized him and later revealed his identity to the lady.  

The next morning the embarrassed woman went to see Mr. Washington in his office at the Institute and apologized profusely. "It's perfectly all right, Madam," he replied. "Occasionally I enjoy a little manual labor. Besides, it's always a delight to do something for a friend." She shook his hand warmly and assured him that his meek and gracious attitude had endeared him and his work to her heart. Not long afterward she showed her admiration by persuading some wealthy acquaintances to join her in donating thousands of dollars to the Tuskegee Institute. 

Our Daily Bread.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
5.     Inventor Samuel Morse

Wakefield tells the story of the famous inventor Samuel Morse who was once asked if he ever encountered situations where he didn't know what to do. Morse responded, "More than once, and whenever I could not see my way clearly, I knelt down and prayed to God for light and understanding." 

Morse received many honors from his invention of the telegraph but felt undeserving: "I have made a valuable application of electricity not because I was superior to other men but solely because God, who meant it for mankind, must reveal it to someone and He was pleased to reveal it to me." 

 Tim Hansel, Eating Problems for Breakfast, Word Publishing, 1988, pp. 33-34.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
6.     The humble man feels no jealousy

It was John Riskin who said, "I believe the first test of a truly great man is his humility. I do not mean by humility, doubt of his own power, or hesitation in speaking his opinion. But really great men have a ... feeling that the greatness is not in them but through them; that they could not do or be anything else than God made them." Andrew Murray said, "The humble man feels no jealousy or envy. He can praise God when others are preferred and blessed before him. He can bear to hear others praised while he is forgotten because ... he has received the spirit of Jesus, who pleased not Himself, and who sought not His own honor. Therefore, in putting on the Lord Jesus Christ he has put on the heart of compassion, kindness, meekness, longsuffering, and humility." M.R. De Haan used to say, "Humility is something we should constantly pray for, yet never thank God that we have."
------------
7.     Henry Augustus Rowland,

professor of physics at Johns Hopkins University, was once called as an expert witness at a trial. During cross-examination a lawyer demanded, "What are your qualifications as an expert witness in this case?" 

The normally modest and retiring professor replied quietly, "I am the greatest living expert on the subject under discussion." Later a friend well acquainted with Rowland's disposition expressed surprise at the professor's uncharacteristic answer. Rowland answered, "Well, what did you expect me to do? I was under oath."

Today in the Word, August 5, 1993.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I am the least of the apostles. 1 Corinthians 15:9
I am the very least of all the saints. Ephesians 3:8
I am the foremost of sinners. 1 Timothy 1:15
In my weakness is my strength: 2 Cor 12/7-9
Poor windows copper coins
Lowly handmaiden
Manger
We'll receive the blows, Gandhi, and humiliate them
Weakness/inability/disability of the called in the Bible

Be humble or you'll stumble. D.L. Moody.
Never be haughty to the humble. Never be humble to the haughty.  Jefferson Davis.

when Mahatma Gandhi once went to meet the King of Britain in a simple loincloth, a reporter asked him if he felt underdressed. Gandhi replied, “The King wears enough clothes for both of us.”
Mother Teresa was once asked, "How do you measure the success of your work?" She thought about the question and gave her interviewer a puzzled look, and said, "I don't remember that the Lord ever spoke of success. He spoke only of faithfulness in love. This is the only success that really counts."
---------------------------------------------
8.     A young American student

On a visit to the Beethoven museum in Bonn, a young American student became fascinated by the piano on which Beethoven had composed some of his greatest works. She asked the museum guard if she could play a few bars on it; she accompanied the request with a lavish tip, and the guard agreed. The girl went to the piano and tinkled out the opening of the Moonlight Sonata. As she was leaving she said to the guard, "I suppose all the great pianist who come here want to play on that piano."

The guard shook his head. "Padarewski [the famed Polish pianist] was here a few years ago and he said he wasn't worthy to touch it." 

Source Unknown
-------------------------------------------
9.     President Lincoln

Lincoln once got caught up in a situation where he wanted to please a politician, so he issued a command to transfer certain regiments. When the secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, received the order, he refused to carry it out. He said that the President was a fool. Lincoln was told what Stanton had said, and he replied, "If Stanton said I'm a fool, then I must be, for he is nearly always right. I'll see for myself." As the two men talked, the President quickly realized that his decision was a serious mistake, and without hesitation he withdrew it. 

Source Unknown.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
10.  George Washington Carver,

the scientist who developed hundreds of useful products from the peanut: "When I was young, I said to God, 'God, tell me the mystery of the universe.' But God answered, 'That knowledge is reserved for me alone.' So I said, 'God, tell me the mystery of the peanut.' Then God said, 'Well, George, that's more nearly your size.' And he told me."  (Adapted from Rackham Holt,  George Washington Carver.)

George Washington Carver was an African-American scientist who did some pioneering work on the lowly peanut. In January 1921, he was called before the Ways and Means Committee in the House of Representatives to explain his work. He expected such a high-level committee to handle the business at hand with him and those who had come with him with dignity and proper decorum. He was shocked when the speakers who preceded him were treated very rudely. As an African-American, he was the last one on the list, and so after three days of waiting, he finally got to make his presentation. He was shocked when he noticed one of the members with his hat on and feet on the table. When the Chairman asked him to take off his hat, the member said out loud, "Down where I come from, we don't accept a black man's testimony. And furthermore, I don't see what this fellow can say that would have any bearing on the work of this committee." At this point, George was ready to turn around and go home, but he said to himself, as he wrote in his autobiography, "Whatever they said of me, I knew that I was a child of God, and so I prayed 'Almighty God, let me carry out your will'". He got to the podium and was told that he had 20 minutes to speak. Well, his presentation was so engaging that he was granted several extensions until he had spoken for several hours. At the end of his talk, everyone on the committee stood and applauded him. (“More Telling Stories, Compelling Stories” by William J. Bausch).

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
11.  Sadhu Sundar Singh

When I saw Sadhu Sundar Singh in Europe, he had completed a tour around the world. People asked him, Doesn't it do harm, your getting so much honor?" The Sadhu's answer was: "No. The donkey went into Jerusalem, and they put garments on the ground before him. He was not proud. He knew it was not done to honor him, but for Jesus, who was sitting on his back. When people honor me, I know it is not me, but the Lord, who does the job."  

 Corrie Ten Boom,  Each New Day.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
12. Pope Francis

Pope Francis recently demonstrated and defined the practice of humility.  He defined it not by his words.  He defined it by his actions.
After his election to the papacy, he turned down the Vatican limousine ride, instead taking the mini-bus back over to the hotel with his brother Cardinals.  At the hotel, he gathered his luggage, thanked each member of the staff, and paid his own bill.  He did not pass off these seemingly meaningless tasks to a papal aide. It was not as if he had nothing to do.
Francis, this humble servant of the Lord, remained Francis, humble servant of the Lord, even after being elected head of the Roman Catholic Church.  His humility was not so much a series of individual actions or practices as it was a way of life for him, as a Jesuit priest, archbishop, cardinal, and pope.
--------------------
Humility and a passion for praise are a pair of characteristics which together indicate growth in grace. The Bible is full of self-humbling (man bowing down before God) and doxology (man giving praise to God). The healthy heart is one that bows down in humility and rises in praise and adoration. The Psalms strike both these notes again and again. So too, Paul in his letters both articulates humility and breaks into doxology. Look at his three descriptions of himself quoted above, dating respectively from around A.D. 59, 63, and 64. As the years pass he goes lower; he grows downward! And as his self-esteem sinks, so his rapture of praise and adoration for the God who so wonderfully saved him rises.

Undoubtedly, learning to praise God at all times for all that is good is a mark that we are growing in grace. One of my predecessors in my first parochial appointment died exceedingly painfully of cancer. But between fearful bouts of agony, in which he had to stuff his mouth with bedclothes to avoid biting his tongue, he would say aloud over and over again: "I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth" (Ps. 34:1). That was a passion for praise asserting itself in the most poignant extremity imaginable. 

Cultivate humility and a passion for praise if you want to grow in grace.
James Packer, Your Father Loves You, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself than of other people, nor does it mean having a low opinion of your own gifts. I means freedom from thinking about yourself one way or the other at all." William Temple, "Christ in His Church"

At a reception honoring musician Sir Robert Mayer on his 100th birthday, elderly British socialite Lady Diana Cooper fell into conversation with a friendly woman who seemed to know her well. Lady Diana's failing eyesight prevented her from recognizing her fellow guest, until she peered more closely at the magnificent diamonds and realized she was talking to Queen Elizabeth! Overcome with embarrassment, Lady Diana curtsied and stammered, "Ma'am, oh, ma'am, I'm sorry ma'am. I didn't recognize you without your crown!" 

"It was so much Sir Robert's evening," the queen replied, "that I decided to leave it behind."  

 Today in the Word, April 3, 1992.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Humility is perfect quietness of heart. It is for me to have no trouble; never to be fretted or vexed or irritated or sore or disappointed. It is to expect nothing, to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me. It is to be at rest when nobody praises me and when I am blamed or despised. It is to have a blessed home in the Lord where I can go in and shut the door and kneel to my Father in secret and be at peace as in a deep sea of calmness when all around is trouble. It is the fruit of the Lord Jesus Christ's redemptive work on Calvary's cross, manifested in those of His own who are definitely subject to the Holy Spirit.

 Andrew Murray.
-------------
From Fr. Tony Kadavil's Collection:

1) Cardinal Léger's option for the poor: 
 
Most Rev. Paul-Émile Léger served as Archbishop of Montreal from 1950 to 1968, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1953 by Pope Pius XII. He was   one of the most powerful men in Canada and within the Catholic Church. He was a man of deep conviction and humility. Then on April 20, 1968 he resigned his office and leaving his red vestments, crosier, miter, and pallium in his Montreal office, disappeared. Years later, he was found living among the lepers and disabled, outcasts of a small African village. When a Canadian journalist asked him, "Why? " here is what Cardinal Léger had to say, "It will be the great scandal of the history of our century that 600 million people are eating well and living luxuriously and three billion people starve, and every year millions of children are dying of hunger. I am too old to change all that. The only thing I can do which makes sense is to be present. I must simply be in the midst of them. So, just tell people in Canada that you met an old priest. I am a priest who is happy to be old and still a priest and among those who suffer. I am happy to be here and to take them into my heart." (http://www.rockies.net/~spirit/sermons/a-or09-2-keeping.php Barry Robinson,) Is that your calling? Is it mine? Probably not. Today’s gospel says:  “Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." 

2) The humble Gandhi:
 
One man who took Jesus seriously was Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi acknowledged that he had been much influenced by the Gospels and touched by the life of Christ. As he once remarked, "I might have become a Christian had it not been for Christians!" Gandhi did not lead the masses by standing like a monarch above them but by identifying with them and sharing in their circumstances. He identified himself with the half-naked rural masses by rejecting his attorney’s pants and coat and dressing himself with a loin cloth and cotton shawl.  While the other high caste Indian politicians were not willing to associate themselves with the untouchables, Gandhi chose to live, eat and march with the untouchables, and he gave them a new dignity and a new name. He honored them by calling them HARIJANS, "the people of God."

3) America's "First Lady of Etiquette," Emily Post, versus Jesus Christ:
 
Luke 14 focuses on etiquette for guests and hosts at dinner parties. I thought I should see what the original "Miss Manners," Emily Post, had to say on that subject. So I did consult the twelfth edition of Emily Post's Etiquette. I learned to kneel, kiss his ring, and address him as "Your Holiness" when having a private audience with the Pope. I learned replies to lunch invitations to the White House must always be handwritten and always returned that same day -- and the answer is always, "Yes." Emily Post was very specific about planning formal dinners. Seating charts were included showing which seats the guests of honor should get. Who's seated next to whom is also important. Emily Post sums it up: "The requisites for a perfect formal dinner ... are ... Guests who are congenial, Servants who are competent, A lovely table setting -- Food that is perfectly prepared ... A cordial and hospitable host and a charming hostess" (and a good seating chart). And there is another source we can turn to on how to throw a perfect party. The source is Scripture. And the "etiquette expert" is Jesus himself. In today’s gospel, Jesus gives guidance on party protocol while attending a formal dinner. When God is throwing a party, all the "right" people will be there -- that is everyone who responds to (God's) invitation.  But seated next to the host (Jesus) in the places of honor are not the dignitaries, the celebrities, the distinguished people of position and prominence, but rather the poor, the hurting, the outcast -- people who have distinguished themselves only by their need.
*****
On a flight from Johannesburg, a middle-aged, well-off white South African Lady had found herself sitting next to an African man. She called the cabin crew attendant over to complain about her seating. “What seems to be the problem Madam?” asked the attendant.
“Can’t you see?” she said. “You’ve sat me next to a kaffir. I can’t possibly sit next to this disgusting human. Find me another seat!” “Please calm down Madam.” the stewardess replied. “The flight is very full today, but I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll go and check to see if we have any seats available in club or first class.” The woman cocks a snooty look at the outraged black man beside her (not to mention at many of the surrounding passengers also).
A few minutes later the stewardess returns with the good news, which she delivers to the lady, who cannot help but look at the people around her with a smug and self satisfied grin: “Madam, unfortunately, as I suspected, economy is full. I’ve spoken to the cabin services director, and club is also full. However, we do have one seat in first class”.
Before the lady had a chance to answer, the stewardess continued, “It is most extraordinary to make this kind of upgrade, however, and I had to get special permission from the captain. But, given the circumstances, the captain felt that it was outrageous that someone be forced to sit next to such an obnoxious person.” With which, she turned to the African man sitting next to her, and said: “So if you’d like to get your things, Sir, I have your seat ready for you in first class up at the front...” At which point, apparently the surrounding passengers stood and gave a standing ovation while the African guy walks up to first class in the front of the plane.
(Unfortunately I do not know the source of this story by Fr. Tommy Lane)

Humility is opposed to a pride that shows no respect for others, but tends to dominate, to exercise power for its own sake, to be unconcerned for the rights of others. It is a virtue which sees service of others as the meaning of authority.
*****
From Fr. Jude Botelho:

The first reading from the book of Sirach is a lesson on humility. While pride is the deadliest of the seven deadly sins, because it is founded on falsehood which destroys ourselves and those around us, humility is perhaps the most characteristic of Christian virtues. The humble person finds favour with God not because that favour is a reward for humility, but because humility, like faith, means abandoning self-assertion, all trust in oneself, and allowing God to act where we can do nothing.

Humility is Truth
William Carey, the great missionary of India, was a very humble man despite his great linguistic skills and botanical achievements. He had translated the Bible into several Indian languages. The intellectuals and men of high positions in Calcutta recognized him. On one occasion the Governor General of India invited him to a party. As they sat around the table, one of the invitees asked another whether this was the Carey who was once a shoemaker. Carey overheard this comment and turned to the person and said, in all humility, “No, Sir, I was only a cobbler.”
John Rose in ’John’s Sunday Homilies’

In today’s Gospel Jesus is at a meal in the house of one of the leading Pharisees. He notices the undignified scramble for the places of honour and is moved to comment on what he sees through a parable. The parable looks like a bit of prudential advice on how to behave at a dinner party so as to avoid embarrassment.  But since it is a parable one need not take it at face value, as a piece of worldly wisdom or even as a lesson in humility. It deals rather with an aspect of one’s relationship with God. God in the person of Jesus Christ is inviting all peoples to the messianic feast. The only way to respond to the invitation is to renounce any claim or merit of one’s own. The Pharisees expected the best seats in the banquet for keeping the Torah, but like the outcaste, they have to learn that salvation is an unmerited gift –freely given and humbly to be accepted. Our acceptance at the heavenly banquet will depend not on our merit or good deeds but on our acceptance of others now. Humility in a Christian sense is not a purely passive virtue; like faith, to which it is closely akin, it is highly active.

Humility Speaks in Silence!
For a lady traveller it was a pleasant journey by train from New York to Philadelphia as there was only one more passenger besides her. Her co-passenger was rather a heavy-set man. But her joy of comfort was disturbed when the man lit a cigar and started smoking. The lady deliberately coughed and showed an unpleasant face. Nothing worked. He continued to smoke. Then she blurted out, “You might be a foreigner. But don’t you know that there is a smoking car ahead. Smoking is prohibited here. The man quietly threw his cigar out of the window and maintained his equanimity. When the conductor came to examine the tickets the lady passenger realized with horror that her co-passenger was the famous General Ulysses Grant. She had boarded his private car by mistake. As the lady made a hasty exit the General did not even look at her so as not to embarrass her. He turned his head and smiled only after the lady was out of sight. –Great humility is displayed by stronger men. Humility comes from strength.
G. Francis Xavier in “Inspiring Stories”

Learning from the Great
Dr. Richard Evans was a psychologist at the University of Houston who had developed an interesting series of films. They consisted of interviews Evans did with some great leaders in the fields of psychology and psychiatry –people like Carl Jung, Eric Fromm Erik Erikson, Carl Rogers, B.F. Skinner and Jean Piaget. Surprisingly, the major thing Evans learned from these great figures was the need for humility: What these great thinkers profess to know and their assessment of it is rather humble. Some people tend to oversell what psychology and psychiatry can do to help people solve their problems. Not so with the really great personages in these fields. The really important people have a modest view of what they have contributed, much less what the field had contributed in general. –Humility is the mark of all truly great men. A healthy sense of humour is closer to humility than self-depreciation.  Pope John XXIII once remarked: “Anybody can become pope; the proof of this is that I have become pope.”
Albert Cylwicki in ‘His Word Resounds’

Inflated Ego
Some time ago in Florida, the St Petersburg Times carried an interesting story about Don Shula, the coach of the Miami Dolphins, vacationing with his family in a small town in northern Maine. One afternoon it was raining and so Shula, his wife and his five children decided to attend a matinee movie in the town’s only theatre. When they arrived the house lights were still on in the theatre, where there were only six other people present. When Shula and his family walked in, all six people stood up and applauded. He waved and smiled. As Shula sat down he turned to his wife and said, “We’re thousands of miles from Miami and they are giving me a standing ovation. They must get us on television all the way up here. Then a man came to shake Don Shula’s hand. Shula beamed and said, “How did you recognize me?” The man replied, “Mister, I don’t know who you are. All I know is just before you walked in the theatre manager told us that unless four more people turned up we wouldn’t have a movie today.”
Mark Link in ‘Sunday Homilies’

Self-Effacing Humility
One type of humility is self-effacement – the habit of doing good deeds, or indeed just daily work, secretly and anonymously, without expecting thanks. A good example of that is a teacher, who in preparation for Thanksgiving Day asked her class of first graders to draw a picture of something they were thankful for. She thought of how little these children from their poor neighbourhood had. She imagined that most of them would draw pictures of turkeys or tables of food. But the teacher was taken aback with the picture little Douglas handed in -a childishly drawn hand. The teacher showed it to the class to decide whose hand it was. “I think it must be the hand of God that brings us food,” said one child. “A farmer,” said another, “because he grows the turkeys.” When the others were at work, the teacher bent over Douglas’ desk and asked whose hand it was. “It is your hand, teacher,” he mumbled. It was only then that she recalled that frequently at recess she had taken Douglas, a scrubby forlorn child by the hand. She often did that with the children; it had obviously meant a lot to Douglas. For herself, she was grateful for the chance, in whatever small way, to give self-effacingly to others.
Harold Buetow in ‘God Still Speaks: Listen!’

Truly Humble
An arrogant American musician once visited the house of the great composer Beethoven, sat down at the piano and proudly began to play Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. When he had finished, he asked the concierge, “I suppose many celebrities come here?” “Yes,” replied the man, “Pederewski was here last week.” The American continued, “And did he play the piano too?” “No,” said the old concierge, “He said he wasn’t worthy.” Ignacy Jan Pererewski was a brilliant Polish pianist, composer, orator, writer, social worker and philosopher who eventually became Prime Minister of Poland in 1919. He was deeply humble and is a model of what today’s readings exhort us to be.
Francis Gonsalves in ‘Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds’