God raises the humble

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe Week XXII-C, 01 September 2019

Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29 ><))*> Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24 ><))*> Luke 14:1, 7-14

Photo from MSNBC via Google.

While praying over today’s gospel during the week, I came across this photo of Ms. Rosa Parks in my Facebook feed saying something like, “Rosa Parks made a stand for her rights by refusing to give up her seat in a bus 60 years ago.”

I love the caption and the play of words of the photo that convey the same message of our Sunday gospel: it is not where we seat but where we stand that matters most.

On a sabbath, Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully. He told a parable to those who had been invited, noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table.

Luke 14:1, 7

For the next three Sundays beginning today while Jesus resolutely decided to journey to Jerusalem, he will be teaching us with some “table talks” as he spoke about the heavenly banquets as expressions of God’s vast ocean of mercy where everyone is welcomed. But, more than lessons on table manners and etiquette, Jesus is also teaching us of finding our own places in his kingdom here on earth where everybody is welcomed just like in heaven.

Key to appreciating our gospel today is found in the first reading:

My child, conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts. Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God.

Sirach 3:17-18
From Google.

Remember that very central in the teaching of Jesus is the need to be like a child when he would always remind us that “unless you become like a child, you will never inherit the kingdom of heaven.” Being like a child is being humble and obedient, being open to learning new things that are all necessary in building relationships that lead to communion with God and with others. Heaven is the perfect communion of God and everyone but it has to start here on earth among us.

Jesus lived at a time when society and people were so fragmented, just like now. Everybody feels being entitled to heaven and on earth, to every position and honor everywhere even in the church.

While at a sabbath dinner hosted by a Pharisee, Jesus took the occasion to teach the people of the need to be humble to be accepted anywhere. According to St. Teresa of Avila, humility is walking in truth. Humility is being real!

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Luke 14:11
Photo by Jim Marpa, 2018.

Jesus is telling us that for his grace and mercy to truly work on us, we have to be really who we are. In this age when life has been replaced with lifestyle and people have usurped the power and authority of God as well as the natural order of things, everybody feels entitled to everything insisting on their rights forgetting their responsibilities. Homosexuality is not a sin; what is sinful are homosexual acts. The challenge is for the person to accept his/her true self as a beloved child of God doing his/her best to be the bestest person. No need to alter one’s body nor be somebody else he/she is not. Homosexuality is not about insisting on something just for the sake of insisting or making a statement for one’s self regardless of others like in the use of toilets. We have a Tagalog expression that perfectly captures the Lord’s lesson, “lumagay ka sa dapat mong kalagyan”. Loosely translated, it means simply be where you are supposed to be.

Last Wednesday we celebrated the memorial of St. Augustine, one of the most famous and colorful saints of the Church. His life is a gospel in itself, showing us that nobody is too late to change and be a better person. Most of all, nothing is too late for God. Like St. Augustine, we must first accept who we are, be humble for our weaknesses for it is only when we accept that we start to grow and everything follows like acceptance by others. How can we expect others to accept us if we cannot accept first our very selves? This is the most beautiful mark of humility of children that make them so irresistible to adults: they have no guile, all-natural and no plasticity or synthetic fronts to be loved and appreciated.

More than table manners and etiquette, Jesus is teaching us that if we can be humble and accept who we are, we can definitely find our place in the kingdom of God, here on earth and in heaven. God loves us so much he has a plan for each on of us if we play our roles wholeheartedly. We will never experience his mercy and grace unless we become humble.

Photo by Reuters, 2018.

“Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Luke 14:13-14

To further ensure the lesson of his parable about each of us having a place in his kingdom here on earth, Jesus reminds us too while in the context of his sabbath dinner that for us to be able to establish a more humane society, we have to guard against stereotypes of peoples that we tend to box them into categories.

Jesus is asking us to radically change our prevailing social mores, suggesting a very different value-system in the here-and-now kingdom of God. Far from the cries of the communists for a classless society, Jesus tells us to see the value of every person rather than focusing on the few powerful, wealthy, and influential people we always deal with in exchange of so many favors.

It is a patronage system so prevalent everywhere especially in politics and in our social relationships like the compradazo system of getting ninong and ninang who are rich and famous to get influence and other perks and rewards. It is so unfortunate that some clergymen are so guilty of this that the Church’s credibility has eroded so much for the mistakes and sins of a few.

In this manner of patronage system, the poor and the weak are always left out to the margins, forgotten and even disregarded. What kind of Christianity do we have when we are so concerned with Christmas carols and counting the days before Christmas and be oblivious to the plight of the farmers and fishermen?

Lorenzo Atienza, June 2019.

What Jesus is telling us today is that those who have less in life should have more of God because, truly in the end, they are the ones who shall be exalted!

In these parable and admonition by Jesus, St. Luke our guide these Sundays is not only giving us an advice on how to prepare for the end times but also on how to live according to the Lord’s vision of a just and humane society in our imperfect world.

We in the Church play a very vital role in bringing about this change by witnessing the gospel that often brings about a reversal of fortunes in the end.

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us that the ultimate goal of our Christian life is communion with God made possible by Christ’s offering of himself on the Cross. Do our Sunday Mass celebrations and Parish set-ups witness to the gospel values of a just and a humane city of God here on earth?

A blessed Sunday to everyone! Amen.

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