22nd Sunday in Ordinary time, 28 Aug 2016

From the Dean’s desk

Have you ever walked into a room and had the feeling that something was not quite right with the people gathered there?  Today’s Gospel [Luke 14: 1.7-14] begins in such a way.  Luke gives us some hints that things are not too well here. Firstly, Jesus has been invited to a meal in the house of a leading Pharisee.  Secondly he tells us that this meal is on the Sabbath day.  Thirdly he states that ‘they watched him closely’ as if to pick up on some action or word which they could use against him.  So all does not seem well.  We can be sure that some argument or disagreement between Jesus and the Pharisees will ensue. Today’s Gospel omits the episode dealing with the healing of the man suffering from dropsy.  It becomes a challenging test to see if Jesus would heal on the Sabbath day. Even with the omission of this miracle we can sense that some argument between Jesus and the religious authorities will follow.

Luke tells us that Jesus notices that the other invited guests are making their way to the most prominent places at the banquet table.  This then becomes the reason for the parable that follows.  This parable is not so much a story that tells us how to deal with our embarrassment with regard to public seating arrangements.  Jesus here is telling us to consider a vital and important aspect of our Christian spirituality:  the virtue of HUMILITY.  Humility is based on truth: how I stand before God. Humility challenges us to recognise the fact that all of us are sinners in need of God’s grace and mercy, as Pope Francis so often reminds us.   Humility also challenges us to recognise the fact that through Jesus Christ we have become adopted children of God – that we are – ‘graced sinners’ as St Francis de Sales makes note in his writings.    In recognising my own dignity, I am also recognising the dignity of others. Recalling that I am a sinner keeps me aware of my limitations – it keeps me spiritually sober; recalling that I am graced helps me to trust in God’s providence for me.  Recalling that I am a sinner keeps me from judging others, realising that I too have certain shortcomings; recalling that I am graced will allow me to reach out to others who are suffering in any way.  Recalling that I am a sinner will allow me to call on God’s mercy and forgiveness; recalling that I am graced will allow me to be thankful for the many gifts that God gives me every day.

The virtue of humility also enters into and affects our prayer life.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that ‘only when we humbly acknowledge that we do not know how to pray as we ought are we ready to receive freely the gift of prayer[CCC # 2559].    Humility is referred to as having a ‘poverty of spirit’ - a self -emptying of our pride and standing before God in all truth. [CCC# 2546].  Humility then is an essential aspect of our Christian and spiritual lives.  Without it we risk living an unrealistic and often withdrawn life. Our first reading today from the Wisdom tradition offers us some salient advice: ‘The greater you are; the more humble you should behave’.  Greatness in the Kingdom is to view life through the eyes of humility – a vision that allows us to live in the truth of God’s presence. Humility allows me to recognise my sinfulness but also to realise that through God’s grace the gifts and talents given to me by God will shine through.  Humility allows me to be thankful and truthful before God and others.  Am I prepared to experience true greatness in the Kingdom by living a truly humble life.

Fr Robert Bossini
Dean and Parish Priest