With Sincerity and Effort, We Can Become Humble and a Close Servant of God

08-28-2022Letters From Fr. BrianRev. Brian F. Manning

The scripture of this weekend is inviting us to reflect upon where we stand in our relationship with God and others. When we think about this, we may conclude that we are in an okay space with God, and perhaps even think we deserve special credit for how we perceive that we are a committed Christian and Catholic. Our readings may abruptly knock us back a step or two and confront us to really question where we are in our relationship with God.

In our first reading we learn that Ben Sirach suggests humility to us, he is doing more than just offering a strongly worldly suggestion. Ben Sirach is telling us simply and plainly that the humble life “finds favor with God.” A person who is not blinded by their own self can be humble and also see that can see that there is more to life than meets the eye. A humble person can see that God is involved. Ben Sirach is not recommending that we be wishy-washy or have false humility, we do not need to “disappear” in the sight of God. Sirach distinguishes putting ourselves “forward” in God’s eyes and doing so in the eyes of people. He reminds us that God remains unimpressed with the proud, the high, or the mighty. Divine attention to us is triggered by our right relationship with God.

In our Gospel passage, we may presume that the folks at the party knew very well these admonitions and words of Ben Sirach. We may also presume that Jesus knew that they knew these words. The Pharisees, however, paid no attention to the advice about humility and they maneuvered for the best seats at the party. Remember that Pharisees were the powerful religious advisors of that time and were expected to be able to have insight and understanding about everything in Jewish life. They knew the Law of Moses and how it was to be applied, yet it is clear they did not apply the Law to themselves. As a result, Jesus took on the task of putting them in their place.

Although the second reading at Mass during Ordinary Time is not usually selected to connect to the Gospel or even the first reading, it does by grace and chance this week. This passage reminds all of us that our church did not begin high on a mountain top in delightful sunlight; instead, it began at the foot of the cross through water and blood that flowed from the side of Christ. Certainly, a most humble beginning.

Our Gospel passage of today focuses on the humility required of a guest. The story is full of surprises. In many ways, The greatest one is if God were like the host in the banquet described in today’s Gospel—if God were a discriminating host, then when it came to sharing the banquet of eternal life, most of us would not find ourselves on the guest list. However, God is a most generous and lavish host. Jesus tells us that if we are humble guests, we will be ushered into the banquet by a humble host and even invited to sit higher at the table. Humility will bring us closer to the host and for us, humility will bring us closer to God. Neither arrogance nor conceit nor false piety or fake humility will bring us closer to God. Only authentic and sincere humility will bring us closer to Him. This is a difficult goal for us, but with sincerity and effort, we can become humble and close servants of God.