On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely.
When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place.
But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.
And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
Today’s Gospel speaks of a virtue that our culture honors perhaps more in name than in fact: humility. Jesus’s parable reminds us that rather than loudly asserting our own importance, we are quietly to act on our own unworthiness; rather than exalting ourselves, we are to be humble. Paradoxically, in that way we will be esteemed in the Reign of God.
But isn’t it human nature to seek out something with which to show our superiority? Even in a religious community, among those vowed to poverty, we always seem to find a way: perhaps by comparing educational accomplishments, or by ranking the apostolates we hold. In the Navy, we called it “Compare and Despair”. In the Jesuits, we call it “Death by Degree”, because it involves both the acquisitive pursuit of academic degrees and a slow but sure spiritual death from placing self-love of one’s own accomplishments, or pride, before love for the community and for God. Does your profession have a similar saying? Does it need one?
—Fr. Greg Ostdiek, SJ, is a former Navy officer who is now a Jesuit priest of the Midwest Province. Ordained this past June, he is spending his first year after ordination studying education at Harvard.
Teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve:
to give, and not to count the cost;
to fight, and not to heed the wounds;
to toil, and not to seek for rest;
to labor, and not to ask for any reward,
save that of knowing I am doing your will.
St. Ignatius, pray for us!
—Prayer for Generosity of St. Ignatius of Loyola
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