Humility is the lesson of the day, as I think it is on most days. In today’s gospel Lk 14:1, 7-14
Jesus instructs His disciples on how to approach a dinner party, but this lesson has little to do with etiquette and everything to do with the relationship between God and man.
For some background information, these dinner parties and wedding banquets were large and formal affairs. Wedding banquets today still hold some of the same flavor, but the social dinners are from an era long gone by. They come from a background without modern media, and that includes newspapers. They are from an era without many of the distractions that modern man is accustomed to. One biblical example is the dinner the Pharisee invited Jesus to speak at, that is the one where Mary Magdalene approached Jesus as the penitent woman and broke the social conventions of the day. For the weddings there is the wedding feast at Canna, which the entire population of Canna might have attended. They were events where contracts were brokered, laws discussed and promulgated, theories presented, judgements made, scholarly interactions, just to name a few. Often those giving the event placed the main participants reclining at the center of the event, bystanders and casual observers much farther away. It was a hierarchy, and it did serve a legitimate purpose. The hierarchy of a pack of wolves feeding on a carcass also comes to mind. Pecking orders, social climbers, and people snubbed. Along with the lesson of humility, I wonder if there was not some practical advice in how the Apostles should spread the good news.
These social orders were prevalent in ancient society, it was the Roman class system and that concept of order extended not only to ranking people, but also to ranking what people did for a living. Social conventions are powerful, and often make little sense to those looking at a system from the outside. The social order of men often displaced the order between man and God. In the ancient world Caesar was emperor, who then became a divine god. Augustus, his son, was widely known as the son of god. That is a phrase familiar to Christians. Jesus challenged the social order, his as not the concern of the ranking of men but the relationship between man and God. In Jesus order man bows to God.
To get back to humility, and that is how Jesus asks the disciples to approach the dinner party. Did I mention that the relationship between God and man is often described in scripture as a heavenly banquet? The Old Testament is full of stories where man is invited to the Fathers banquet. Man’s approach is full of social blunders, Faux Pas. The disciples knew these Old Testament stories well.
My child, conduct your affairs with humility,
and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts.
Humble yourself the more, the greater you are,
and you will find favor with God.
What is too sublime for you, seek not,
into things beyond your strength search not.
The mind of a sage appreciates proverbs,
and an attentive ear is the joy of the wise.
Water quenches a flaming fire,
and alms atone for sins.
Humility means to get close to the ground, Humus is the Latin for earth or dirt. Good people are often described as “earthy” in “Christian” societies. They are humble people who do not put on airs, they are not pretentious or arrogant. Jesus also references his humility by becoming man. He references humility as the seed that is planted in the ground to die so that it might transform itself into a plant that bears much fruit. The humble seed becomes the mighty tree. A reminder from Genesis, God took a piece of clay and formed man, breathed into it and gave him life. We are dirt (humus) and to dirt we shall return. Being humble people of the earth is how we were created, and that humility allows for both the humble worker of the land and the humble country doctor that tends to him. In the true social order every human, man of the earth, recognizes the God that created them, and is obedient. It is man’s sins that clutter the landscape. At the Garden of Eden, Adam & Eve try to become like Gods. How did that work out? They were cast out from that land. The tower of Babel, again man trues to become like the gods. Man tries to become something other than a humble human, God brings that tower down and humbles man. In the ancient societies man often s disobedient to the LORDS design, and the LORD humbles him. These are the stories of Cain and Able, and of Noah, and of Sodom and Gomorrah. Man is always brought back to earth, and back into compliance with the will of God. Man is after all a “man of the earth”, a “humble human.” Man can either be humble or be humbled. Man cannot be God, though this is something the likes of Caesar could not accept.
Caesar was not the only human who could not accept his humanity, the world is full of people who consider themselves divine. It seems men of the earth have short memories, and continually try to alter Gods plan. Man sins. Fortunately though the LORD recognizes His creation, and realizes He gave them Free Will, and that will allows for sin. Fortunate for us dirt-bags, our God is a loving God and a God of Forgiveness. Our God is so loving He sent His only Son to become Man. He humbled Himself and became Man. The perfect example of humility. That LORD carried our sins, so that we might be redeemed, and offered Himself as Paschal Sacrifice, hanging on a tree for our salvation. Out of perfect humility, the Lord God, Jesus the Christ, redeemed the world. Gods Perfect Humility for the behalf of humans. Humility. Perfect.
Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time