Homily given by Dcn. Bill Bach, Passionist Oblate
August 28, 2016
22ND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – CYCLE C
Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29
Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24a
Luke 14:1, 7-14
Let me begin with a question for each of us. What does God want from you, from me? Surely, we have all heard that we are to love God with our whole heart and to love our neighbors as ourselves. But how do we go about this? Suddenly his call to each of us brings up new questions, probably new meanings. And certainly more probabilities and possibilities!
He is calling each of us to look deep inside ourselves to ask ourselves who we are. And so we must. We will find things we like about ourselves, and some things we would rather not bring to the surface. How often do we judge and compare ourselves with others? Someone else is better looking, better dressed, has more money, has some talent, is more likeable, and we wish we could say the same thing about ourselves. We become more curious why he or she is that way, and wondering why not me? Why can’t we be held in as high esteem as we are sure that person is? It is so very easy to get stuck in comparing ourselves to him or her. We can also look down on those we see as not up to our standards. And who created our standards? Why are we certain we are better or worse than the other person?
We all want to make changes in our attitudes, but it takes a lot of work.
So very often, things happen over which we have no control. Let’s not forget that God is in charge. He gives us what we need and when we need it and it is always right, and always at the right time, even when we think he overdoes it, particularly when it is something that corrects us. Can we accept what he sends our way? We will need to spend time thinking and praying about this.
Let’s reflect for a moment on today’s gospel. Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the Pharisee’s on the Sabbath. He knew that those who came wearing rich garments and gold rings would be asked to sit at places of honor, whereas others would be asked to sit apart, even on the floor. He knew these Sabbath meals were not family meals, but meals where others might be invited. There would be class distinction, in short a double standard. And we know from the verses immediately before those read today from the Gospel of Luke, that Jesus had just cured a man with dropsy, a condition where the body is swollen with water. This man was not a guest, so Jesus sent him on his way. Jesus had cured this man on the Sabbath, and by Jewish law he was not allowed to cure anyone on the Sabbath. So who is this Jesus who was been called to dine with the Jewish official but who spoke and acted on his own standard of love and rules? Jesus uses this parable to show that all are equal in the eyes of God. God has no favorites. There is a place for everyone in salvation: the lame, the blind, the leper, the man with dropsy; and there is a place for all sinners. All are called to the banquet of salvation. And Jesus promises to prepare a place for all of us.
So Jesus is calling us to receive and help others in ways they cannot help themselves. And we see these people around us day in and day out: someone in a wheel chair trying to open a door; people at the soup kitchen, or someone needing money to pay the utilities; someone terminally ill but having no family to check on him and desperately needing someone just to spend some time to chat; the recent widow needing a comforting smile, the person in jail who, separated from family could use someone to come and pray and talk with him or her. Each of us can be that person who brings light and comfort to those in need, who exalts and honors the other person.
These kinds of helps for others require our own humility. Are we afraid to be seen with a homeless person? Is it risky to give money to someone in need? Do we know someone at school who is ignored because he is different? And do you think it would not be cool to befriend him? Does sitting down with someone who has had a recent loss bring up too much from our own pasts that are still so painful? In this situation, going forward to provide solace to someone with a recent loss may turn out to be a gift for you, as you allow yourself to relive some of your own pain and gradually overcome it. We are never alone. It does not take away from our self-worth. All of us are dependent on God: without Him we have nothing. No matter who we are or how powerful we may be or seem to be by others or by ourselves, or how many sins we have committed, or how addicted we may be to honor, and how often we show a lack of humility, God still loves us. Many of us will say that’s amazing. But it’s true. He gives each of us what we need, but He also looks to you and me to look beyond ourselves and see the needs of others. Why? In fact, we are the apple of God’s eye. When we acknowledge our true self-worth and all that God has done to free us, then we are freed from having to control everything. Instead we are free to trust God and to love mankind. We need to acknowledge our readiness, seek His mercy and love and be open to see and help in the needs of others. He tells us not to expect payment for our good deeds, as ultimate payment comes from God whether one works one hour or all day.
So it is healing to be humble. In Sirach we heard, “Humble yourself the more, the greater you are and you will find favor with God.” Yes, always give glory to God. When you’ve done something well, thank God. When others have told you that you have done something well, thank God. If we live in an attitude of humility, poverty of spirit, and moderation in material wealth, it will free us to reach out to our neighbor in a spirit of justice and mercy. Humility is not thinking less of ourselves. No, it is forgetting ourselves so we can be quiet and listen for God and do what he wants. Certainly scripture reminds us that where our hearts are, there also is our treasure. But we must listen, be humble and admit that God uses our abilities, gifts and talents for our own good and the good of others.
We are the Body of Christ in the world but not of the world. We must remember that all of us came from God and are returning to Him. All of us can live and will live a happier life if we let go of ourselves and see God in those around us. All of us are seeking salvation. By Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, and His gift of the Eucharist all of us are called to His banquet of salvation, a foretaste of the heavenly marriage feast.
Today when you hear the Mass is ended, go out --- and invite another to the banquet feast.