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For example Year C 2010 is being replaced week by week with Year C 2013, and so on.

Saturday, 31 August 2019

22nd Sunday Year C 2019


22nd. Sunday (Year C)

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

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Our reading from the book of Sirach was only short but replete with human awareness and divine wisdom, and the opening lines struck me immediately:



My child, conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts.



I find those words to be both beautiful and humbling, but they are words to be ‘tasted’ and delighted in when alone and at peace.

Now, it could well have been the case that not a few of the guests at the table of our Gospel’s leading Pharisee knew those words, in the sense that they were aware of them and had read them in their private reading or Scriptural studies, for these guests seem to have been invited for one main purpose: that they – regional/local fellow-Pharisees of the host -- might have an opportunity to meet the increasingly well-known ‘rabbi’, Jesus of Nazareth.  That is why, I believe, we are told:



On a sabbath, Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing Him carefully



The point is, however, that those words from Sirach are not easily appreciated and acted upon by those whose lives are fully engaged in the daily preoccupation for prestige and position, and that is why Jesus, in His chosen parable for this occasion, did not use any such traditional human words, but rather chose to develop a sense of  divine wisdom and human accountability wrapped in the following simple words:


Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favour with God.

Although St. Luke only tells us that ‘the people’ were observing Jesus closely, there can be no doubt that the ‘leading Pharisee’ himself was also carefully watching Jesus not only to see whether his dinner was proving the success for which he had hoped but most especially to see how his guests were ‘finding’ Jesus, relating or reacting to Him.

Above all, however, Jesus Himself was also carefully observing His fellow guests, for the Gospel tells us:

Noticing how they were choosing the places of honour at the table, Jesus told a parable for those who had been invited.

The situation is reminiscent of Jesus’ initial meeting with the synagogue members in His home town of Nazareth: everyone here, as had been the case there, was watching and waiting for Him to say something.  Jesus Himself knew just why He had been invited, and having accepted the invitation He intended to go along with His hosts’ hopes and expectations for the outcome of the dinner.

What a drama, where divine wisdom is to be packaged in words expressive of human cunning and self-promotion!

When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honour.  A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him, and the host may approach you and say, ‘Give your place to this man.’
Jesus pictures a wedding banquet, a most important occasion in Jewish society where marriage was considered both as personal fulfilment and ‘national service’, a time for dresses and dignitaries, for boasting and gifts.   On such occasions the still small voice of humility and modesty would be almost totally inaudible even for Jews far better educated in such matters than the pagans around;  overwhelmingly louder would be the ever-popular dictum of self-seekers: ‘if I do not take the best place available for myself, someone else will certainly come along and seize it to promote their prospects; I must make an immediate decision otherwise the opportunity will be lost!’   Such urgent and imperious considerations would rarely fail to convince even those allowing themselves an instant to consider the situation.

This picturing of a wedding banquet would have lulled any suspicions of Jesus’ table companions that they themselves were being ‘got at’.  They all knew the ‘goings-on’ at banquets on such occasions: mother of the daughter and bride-to-be, mother of the son and husband-to-be, facing up to each other in so many secret little ways with words, and mannerisms.  Two fathers carefully and anxiously(?) considering the financial costs involved.  And then the relatives and friends of both parties all waiting to seize their own choice patch to enjoy the celebration and observe all going on there.

Now, all Jesus fellow-guests at this smaller, less colourful, and quite serious dinner would have understood all the elbowing and whispering that went on among those specially invited to such a wedding of which Jesus spoke, and they could well have been rather amused at their own recollections of such occasions.  Nevertheless, they would also have been able to empathize quite deeply with anyone being asked to , ‘Give your place to another man’, or, on the other hand, with him asked to ‘move up to a higher position’; and so Jesus’ parable would, I think, have most certainly stirred their attention to the extent that they were prepared to realize with mind and heart what was to come.

And so, at the summit of that peaceful and absorbing general appreciation of human nature in its amusing, selfish and vulnerable aspects, Jesus added words that, for Jews with their background and training, suddenly become directly personal and much more serious, having indeed divine implications:

                Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled.

‘Will be humbled’ ... that is, by God, as no Pharisee or educated Jew would fail to understand.

Now indeed the rabbi from Nazareth was beginning to show Himself to be such as they had heard Him spoken of!

Teacher, we know that what you say and teach is correct, and you show no partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth! (Luke20:21)

Notice Jesus’ method, dear People of God.  He shows His listeners first of all, both calmly and without blame, that He knows them and theirs: the wedding banquet served to amusingly highlight conduct they could recognize so easily in others but which had, at first, seemed so far away from their own serious gathering here and now at the home of one of their leading associates.  Jesus’ words however, show that He has observed what had been happening around their dinner table.   He holds back from Personally condemning anyone or anything in particular but the Word of God He quotes is condemnatory, and a sensible tension begins to be felt among those at table as a result.   However, Jesus then continues quietly and gives what those around had secretly come to hear from Him, that is, His own human wisdom hopefully leading them to recognise and gently guiding them to embrace the beauty of the God’s Word:  

Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled!  But the one who humbles himself will be exalted.
 
The Word of God indeed -- introduced by the Lord without any apology for considering it most appropriate for those presently gathered with Him at their host’s table -- contained a warning first, to draw their careful attention, and then, second, a promise both divinely beautiful and alluringly possible!   After such a sudden contrast in the words Jesus used there was a sensibly-felt lessening of tension among all those around the table followed by a period of short silence indicative of unusually serious introspection and  thought.


Jesus next turned His attention to His host whom He had also been carefully observing.

When you hold a lunch or a dinner do not invite your friends or brothers, or your relatives or wealthy neighbours, in case they invite you back; rather invite the poor, the crippled, 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.

Jesus, I suggest, appreciated His host, and was aware that the present social occasion he had convened had been incumbent on him because of his prominence as a leading Pharisee and because he was known to have some special appreciation of the ‘untaught’ rabbi’s familiarity with and understanding of the Scriptures.

Notice, dear People of God, there was no warning given to him by Jesus; rather, Jesus bestowed on him teaching about the resurrection of the righteous,  the surety of which teaching was Personal to Jesus, over and above the Scriptures known by the Pharisee, for as yet the Jews had not come to any consensus, let alone unanimity, about the right understanding of the possible ‘resurrection’ passages of Scripture.   This statement of Jesus’ Personal divine wisdom and understanding was a bounteous reward for His host’s present appreciation of Jesus and a spur for his future intentions:

You will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.

Dear People of God, we hear too often today those words, ‘Who am I to judge?’  Too often today the Word of God is kept hidden out of personal fear and embarrassment, false respect for other peoples’ supposed feelings.  Notice most clearly Jesus’ Own behaviour and remember that we are all members of His priestly people: some of us are ordained priests of Jesus for Mother Church, all of us, however, are one to the extent that we all have a personal calling and varying obligations to proclaim the Word of God to our world in the name of Jesus.   Jesus, as you have seen, Personally observed the situation in which He found Himself as Son sent by His Father, and He dutifully proclaimed the appropriate Word of God for that situation without fear.


All ordained priests of Mother Church and the priestly, catholic, People of God, are, by obligation and/or encouragement  endowed to proclaim in Church and in public, to witness in their homes and workplace, among friends and at  leisure times, the appropriate and necessary Word of God, in the power and virtue of the Holy Spirit.  We, however, are only called to judge (Who am I to judge?) when sin is involved, and then to judge only the sin, not the sinful person involved.   It is God Himself -- of His infinite majesty and wisdom, goodness and mercy -- Who condemns, first of all by His Words of Scripture, those who continue to ignore His Wisdom and defy His Goodness, before His ultimately final and Personal condemnation at the Last Judgement.  



Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, our Catholic faith is most beautiful and true and we all, each in our own way and according to our personal calling should treasure and preserve it for the generations to come as we have so gratefully received it and so graciously learned to love it.   That is our most seriously binding duty as Catholic disciples of Jesus, to witness to what we believe and love.   The most Holy Spirit has come among us to witness to Jesus Who said to His disciples, ‘He, the Spirit of Truth abides with you (in Mother Church) and will be in you (personally).   Dear People of God, if the Spirit is alive in you, you must witness to your Christian and Catholic faith otherwise you yourself are spiritually close to death.