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Humility

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Ordinary 22 Year C

A Hebrew Catholic Perspective

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St. Luke 14: 7 — 14

Introduction

One Sabbath, our Lord accepted an invitation after Synagogue Service to go to the home of a prominent Pharisee.

The Pharisees, let us remember, began as a small religious party around B C 145. They were intensely loyal to their heritage, and would not swear allegiance (even once) to Herod. Whereas the Sadducees tried to apply the Law of Moses (first 5 books of the Old Testament) literally, the Pharisees allowed adaptation to the circumstances of the occasion. They therefore had to draw on a large number of interpretations, which in time, despite the best intentions, tended to cloud the revelation from God that they were supposed to protect. All religions, of course, face the same dilemma, and this includes Christianity.

On this occasion Jesus mingles very freely and is accepted by the learned guests. In fact, He has no hesitation taking the lead part in a conversation, and is “given the floor”.

In verses 1 — 6 of Luke 14 our Lord is seen rebuking those who abuse the Sabbath teaching of Judaism. However, while doing so, He notices certain visitors who are concentrating more on getting into the right seats (of honour) than listening to Him. He therefore changes tack and tries to raise their minds to God, using what they were doing there and then. This is where our reading begins. Let’s recall that, while Jesus moves freely through the social levels of His society, He never forgets His mission. He seizes every opportunity to offer a relevant message but always in the appropriate way; in this case to fine-tune a few attitudes towards seeking membership of the Kingdom of God.

We see now how He does this.

Click here for a printable version of our text

 

Some Reflections on our Text

First: The Guests — Verses 7 — 11

Verse 7

He told a parable to those who had been invited,
noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table.

Our Lord, while talking to the invited guests in the home of the prominent Pharisee, observes very closely the subtle manoeuvres of several guests as they try to obtain the seats of honour. As has been well documented, it is often in the small apparently trivial acts that a person’s character and values are most accurately reflected.

Instead of telling them directly that their behaviour is inappropriate for such distinguished people, Jesus tells them a familiar parable. This has the effect of drawing attention to their indiscretions without His appearing to moralise. The word “parable” used here signifies that what follows has spiritual significance for each individual — it is not just practical advice.

Verses 8 — 10

“When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet,
do not recline at table in the place of honor.
A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him,

and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say,
‘Give your place to this man,’ and then you would proceed
with embarrassment to take the lowest place.

Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place
so that when the host comes to you he may say,
‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’
Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table.

The parable, which is really a commentary on Proverbs 25: 6 and 7, has a similar message to that taught by Rabbi Simeon ben Azzai who said: “Stay two or three seats below your place (i.e. where you feel you should sit) and sit there until they say to you, ‘Come Up’. Do not begin by going up because they may say to you, ‘Go down”. It is better that they say to you ‘Go up’, then that they say to you, ‘Go down’.”

The advice of Jesus is that, regardless of your status, assume that there will be someone more distinguished than yourself. Leave it to your host to demonstrate what he thinks of you. That will always bring you more credit than any honour you take for yourself. This is not encouragement of false humility but a fine-tuning in correction of religious practice.

Verse 11

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

In typical rabbinic style, Jesus brings His parable for the guests to a close with a pithy, power-packed saying (one of His favourites, and repeated often in early Church documents):

“Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled.
And he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The invited guests are familiar with the material Jesus uses, but are intrigued with this contribution to it. The refining and re-application of another rabbi’s teaching brings honour to both rabbis. Fifty years later another rabbi is recorded as contributing his slant on the topic (which could well reflect an influence from Jesus, indirectly).

“Yield up thy place and go down two or three seats, and sit down,
until they say to thee, Go up higher. Go not higher of thyself,
lest they say to thee, Go down lower, for it is better that they
should say to thee Go higher, than Go lower. Thus the son of Hillel
used to say, ‘My humiliation is my exaltation, and my exaltation
is my humiliation’.”

This was written by Rabbi Akiba Ben Joseph (C. E. 50 — 135), one of the greatest Jewish scholars, who exerted very considerable influence on Jewish teaching as seen in the Mishnar. He was burnt alive by the Romans for actively promoting his teaching and refusing to stop doing so. We honour him for his devotion and holiness.

This extended reference to traditional rabbinic on-going, cumulative commentary, is intended to show Jesus Messiah at His best: not embarrassing His host’s guests, but in the humblest manner possible, quietly bringing to their attention that they may not realise they are letting themselves down. Thus He is able to practise what He preaches.

From Guests to Host

Verses 12 — 14

Then he said to the host who invited him,
“When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends
or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors,
in case they may invite you back and you have repayment.

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.”

Having gained the attention of his fellow guests; our Lord then turns His attention to the host. “When you give a luncheon or dinner”, says Jesus, “do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbours lest (or for fear) they might invite you back — and so you will be repaid”. This is one of those Hebraisms which puzzles us today.

Of course people will and should invite those who are their friends and relatives. Translated into our cultural setting he is saying:

“Do not make it a practice of inviting just your friends, relatives and
rich neighbours. Otherwise you miss the perfect opportunity to perform
an even higher act of charity. They will invite you in return and that will
be all the reward you get. If you wish to gain an eternal blessing invite
also those who rarely get such a treat — and who will never be able to
return the courtesy simply because they cannot. So, invite the poor,
the crippled, the lame and the blind. On their behalf, God will invite
you to His eternal banquet when He calls the just to rise and be with Him.
Then you will be blessed indeed.”

 

Conclusion

In faultless, indeed gracious style, our Lord reminds his listeners, devout and very learned teachers of Israel, that we advance in God’s Kingdom and win honour, paradoxically, by being humble and conscious of our unworthiness. No one has a claim on any place in this Kingdom. Only those who know they are unworthy of such an honour enter its courts; and they do so because they are called, not because they lay a claim, or invite themselves.

In this very beautiful account, Our Lord reminds His listeners that it is a long established tradition for God’s people to give alms to the needy and look on it as a privilege to do so. This tradition passed over into the Church and for 2000 years has remained at the forefront of Christian teaching. It is up to Christ’s members to ensure, likewise, it remains at the forefront of Christian practice.

 

Shalom!

 

 

Further Reading

For those who would like a detailed study resource
on the readings for Sunday, please visit:

Agape Bible Study — Ordinary 22 ― Year C

If you require only the section on the Gospel reading,
just scroll down the page.

To view all the material on the Agape website please visit:

www.agapebiblestudy.com

This website is highly recommended:

 

 

Proclaim the Gospel to Every Creature

(Mark 16: 15)

The real Jesus, is the real answer to the real needs of the world!

Let us remember God’s teaching, contained in His Word and in doing
so, remain close to Him. The following are only examples illustrating
how you can note the gems the Holy Spirit highlights for your on-going
reflection.

Humility

Ordinary 22     Year C           Luke 14: 7 — 14

1.    If we apply the situation described in this Gospel reading to our own times
        — really very little has changed. It seems that there are always those who
        want to fraternise only with other “socialites” who are also straining to climb
        the social ladder. It doesn’t reflect much respect for the host, who can’t be
        the real reason for their coming, or they wouldn’t care where they sat.

2.     Our Lord, again, commends the virtue and value of doing good deeds for
        the less fortunate and building up “treasure in heaven”. It is a powerful way
        to help usher in the Kingdom of God. “For you will be repaid at the
        resurrection of the righteous.” How could the Lord be clearer in teaching
        us to do good deeds in the belief that the true reward will be a spiritual one
        when He returns to complete the establishment of His Kingdom at the end
        of time!

3.     We need to remember always that those who enter His Kingdom have been
        called personally by Him.

        “No one has a call on any place in this Kingdom. Only those who know
        they are unworthy of such an honour enter its courts; and they do so
        because they are called, not because they lay a claim or invite themselves.”

        Let us pray for one another to deepen our faith in this personal call into the
        Kingdom of God that we may look to one another as family ― and always act
        accordingly.

 

Shalom!

 Click here for a printable copy of these Reflections

 

Luke 14: 7 — 14
Ordinary 22 Year C

NEW AMERICAN BIBLE

7      4 He told a parable to those who had been invited, noticing how
        they were choosing the places of honor at the table.

8      “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not
        recline at table in the place of honor. A more distinguished guest
        than you may have been invited by him,

9      and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say,
        ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then you would proceed with
        embarrassment to take the lowest place.     

10     Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that
        when the host comes to you he may say, ‘My friend, move up to a
        higher position.’ Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions
        at the table.

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

12    Then he said to the host who invited him, “When you hold a lunch
        or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your
        relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you
        back and you have repayment.

13     Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the
         lame, the blind;

14     blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.
         For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

4 [7-14] The banquet scene found only in Luke provides the opportunity for these teachings of Jesus on humility and presents a setting to display Luke’s interest in Jesus’ attitude toward the rich and the poor (see the notes on ⇒ Luke 4:18; ⇒ 6:20-26; ⇒ 12:13-34).

            Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised
edition (c) 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine,
Washington D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner.
All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced
in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

 

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