Thursday, September 1, 2016

Move Up Higher

 He told a parable to those who had been invited,
noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table.
“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.’  Luke 14

Jesus is talking about the way in which people of his day were jostling for position in the eyes of God. They were eager to push themselves forward, to show how well they were keeping the Law in order to maintain their own purity. Jesus is pointedly turning things upside down for them, as he has done before by associating with the wrong kind of people, by touching the untouchable, and by calling the nobodies. Hopefully we don’t miss the point that he is turning things upside down for us as well.

Pride is the great cloud which blots out the sun of God’s generosity: if I reckon that I deserve to be favored by God, not only do I declare that I don’t need his grace, mercy and love, but I imply that those who don’t deserve it shouldn’t have it. Jesus spent his whole life breaking through that cloud and bringing the fresh, healing sunshine of God’s love to those in its shadow.

The climate in our own day is not so different. This Gospel confronts our small-mindedness which sometimes asserts itself at the expense of others. While the image of jockeying for position at a banquet may not resonate with us, there are no doubt plenty of other ways of seeking self-promotion and personal enhancement in everyday exchanges. We might ask ourselves: What opportunities are there for us to take a back seat or forego a place at the head of a line? What ways are open to us to seek to serve the needs of others before our own? The human tendency toward elitism, entitlement, and defending our status and rights is not foreign to any of us. This is in fundamental contrast to the example Jesus gave us at the Last Supper, where he speaks of himself as one who has come to serve, not to be served. He expects us, whom he calls “friends,” to do likewise.

Photograph by Brother Brian. Meditation by Father Dominic.