HOMILY FOR THE 22ND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Readings: Sir. 3:17-18,20,28-29/Heb. 12:18-19,22-24
Psalm: 68:4-5,6-7, 10-11
Gospel: Lk. 14:1,7-14
When I was in the 4th grade, my teacher was trying to get us to understand the meaning of the word metaphor. She would give us a phrase, such as “look before you leap” and we would try to give an explanation of what it meant. And each time when we would say either “look” or “leap” she would stop us and say the meaning has nothing to do with the phrase itself. We were taking the phrase too literally and not understanding the meaning of the metaphor, which is to examine before making a decision. Once we understood that, we were able to understand what a metaphor was and helped us in our reading comprehension when we started to read all sorts of essays and stories. Before that, when someone would say “look before you leap” we would take that phrase literally. Afterwards, a metaphor became a way for us to understand what was going on.
Jesus used metaphors and parables to help him get the message of the faith to those who had a hard time understanding, either by ignorance or by arrogance. Sometimes he used stories based on things that have happened to him in the past, and sometimes the examples just fell in his lap. Take the Gospel that was just proclaimed. Jesus was invited to a dinner party at the home of a well-to-do Pharisee. These were the kind of dinner parties that it was more about being seen as it was to see. It was the kind of party that we only hear about on TV in New York or Los Angeles and loaded with A-list celebrities or the big names of the city that would be featured on the social page of the local paper or regional magazine. These people had heard Jesus, or heard about him and wanted to be near the guest of honor. He saw how they jockeyed around the table to get the “good seat.” This was the perfect moment, he thought, to present to them an explanation of the word humility.
“When you go to a feast, do not sit at the place of honor. Someone more important than you will come in. The host will bring him to where you are sitting and tell you to get out and go back down to the other end, where everyone will look on you in amusement as you walk past them in embarrassment.” “Instead,” Jesus says, “sit at the lowest place, so when your host comes to you and see where you are sitting, he can say ‘my friend, you shouldn’t sit here. Come with me and sit closer to me.’ Everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled. But the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Jesus used what he had in front of him to make a point that those who think more of themselves than they are will be brought down before God and shown to the world their true worth. Likewise, those who think they are not worthy of the joys of Heaven will be shown that their actions mean more to others than they realize as God brings them up with Him to be with Him in Paradise. This had nothing to do with dinner parties. It had everything to do with the view we have of ourselves and in the world in which we live.
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine lost a grandparent. This was someone who acted more like their parent, so the loss they felt, I imagine, was deeper than usual. During their time of grief, I had offered to be a shoulder to cry on whenever they were ready. I wasn’t doing it for any recompense or debt to be paid. I did it out of compassion for their loss. We are friends and friends do that without expecting something in return. It is all a part of showing hospitality.
We all have, from time to time, have observed or personally experienced some hardship in our lives, either physically, emotionally or spiritually. And those times mean that this is a position of weakness; of injury; of despair. It is at those times that the act of hospitality will allow those hurting to be brought up and comforted. It is the sentiment Jesus makes as he continued his conversation. He told them that when they host a dinner party, do not invite those they know and would pay them back, invite those who could NOT pay him back; the lame, the blind, the crippled, the poor. Their gratitude in the hospitality that was given will be greater than any friend or relative could give.
When hospitality is given to only those who will return the favor, then it is merely repaying a debt. When hospitality is given freely without any expectations, then that is showing humility; a true vision of God’s love. Humility and hospitality are two sides of the same coin. While humility is the quality of being without pride, hospitality is the treatment given to a guest. To be hospitable, one must be willing to let someone into their life, their home or their being without any thought of putting up barriers set up by their egos. It is a risk that the people that you let in will not be judgmental in how you live your life.
When someone puts on a dinner party, they do their best to make someone at home. They put out the best that they have. They welcome those who come and wait for those on their way. The hospitality that is shown to their guests makes the host humble by allowing others to view how they live. It may be better than others; it may be worse. But the one thing it is not is hidden. That is the risk we take for showing hospitality to others.
Granted not all acts of hospitality are done for humble means. Some are done as a way to showcase a persona that is another barrier to the outside world. It is the “parade of wealth” party where the guest shows off the house just to rub it in the noses of everyone. It is an act of pride and arrogance that only goes to prove to the guests what the host places their true wealth. This is where the warning in the First Reading from the Book of Sirach is important. “Conduct your affairs with humility and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts. The more you humble yourself, the greater you are and will have found favor with God. Do not seek those things that are too sublime, or lofty nor to reach for thing well beyond your means.”
Whenever we try to live up to the Jones’, many we find out the Jones’ were trying to live up to us. So, as we continue our journey of the faith in this world, let us remind ourselves that the metaphors we live by are just that. They help us to remain humble and hospitable with ourselves, with our faith and with God.
MAY GOD BLESS YOU AND ALL THAT YOU DO THIS WEEK.
Questions for Reflection:
- What are some of the metaphors you live by?
- Who are the people who helped you when you were poor, lame or beaten down?
Were you humbled by the experience?
- When was the last time you showed hospitality to others? How were you repaid?