Once a parishioner wrote a letter to the Pastor. It read as follows: “My dear pastor, I notice that you seem to set a great deal of importance on your sermons and spend no small amount of time preparing them. I have been attending services for the past 30 years and, during that time, I have listened to no less than 3000 sermons. But I hate to inform you that I cannot remember a single one. I wonder if your time might be better spent on something else.” After waiting a couple of days to heal his pride and swallow his defensiveness, pastor wrote back, saying: “My dear parishioner, I have been married for 30 years. During that time, I have eaten thousands of meals … mostly of my wife’s cooking. Unfortunately, I have discovered that I cannot remember the menu of a single meal. Yet I have been nourished by every one of them. In fact, I have the distinct impression that without them, I would have starved to death years ago.” Today’s Gospel describes a banquet which Jesus attended.
Through today’s Gospel passage Jesus explains the practical benefits of humility, connecting it with the common wisdom about dining etiquette. The reason why Jesus was invited to the Sabbath dinner of a party of a prominent Pharisee was that he was already a sort of celebrity, noted for curing the sick. But Jesus was not interested in such fame. Without putting on an air of superiority, he used the occasion to teach a lesson about the Kingdom, presenting humility as the essential condition for God’s invitation to His Heavenly banquet.
One of the parishioners of St. Augustine asked him this question: “Father, what are the most important things in religion? He Said, I should reply, the first is humility, the second is humility and the third is humility,”
Humility is the awareness that everything I have is a gift from God, and, therefore, I have no reason to boast. I must not use these God-given gifts to elevate myself above others. We must simply admit the truth that we do not know everything; we do not do everything correctly and we are all imperfect and sinners. Nevertheless, we also recognize that we are made in the image and likeness of God and that we are called to help build the kingdom of God with our God-given gifts. We are not of value because of those gifts but because we are loved by God as His children, redeemed by the precious blood of His son Jesus.
The quality of humility that Jesus is talking about also has a sociological dimension because Jesus is inviting us to associate with the so-called lower classes of the society even the outcasts. Jesus invites us to change our social patterns in such a way that we connect with and serve the homeless, the handicapped, the elderly, and the needy the “street people” of the world with agape love.
The Archbishop of Montreal Paul Emile Leger was one of the most powerful men in Canada and within the Catholic Church. He was a Cardinal. He also was a man of deep conviction and humility. On April 20, 1968 he resigned his office and, leaving his red vestments, crosier, miter, and pallium in his Montreal office, disappeared. Years later, he was found living among the lepers and disabled, outcasts of a small African village. When a Canadian journalist asked him, “Why?” here is what he had to say: “It will be the great scandal of the history of our century that 600 million people are eating well and living luxuriously and three billion people starve, and every year millions of children are dying of hunger. I am too old to change all that. The only thing I can do which makes sense is to be present. I must simply be in the midst of them. So, just tell people in Canada that you met an old priest. I am a priest who is happy to be old and still a priest and among those who suffer. I am happy to be here and to take them into my heart.”
Dear brothers and sisters Gospel says: “Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
Once three persons were boasting each other on who has the best Bible translation. The first said: “Mine is the best translation because this is a New American Bible. The words used are modern and easy to understand.” The second man boasted: “Mine is the best because this is Jerusalem Bible. Very poetic and it is used in our charismatic group meeting.”
The third man said: “I like the Bible translation of my mother because she translated it into her concrete life, she lives everything written on it.” The other two were silent.
Jesus challenges us to translate the word of God into our daily lives. Challenges us to make Bible alive in our hearts, minds and deeds. Let us practice humility in our personal and social life.