22nd SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME C
1st Reading = Sirach 3: 17-18, 20, 28-29
Psalm = 68: 4-5, 6-7, 10-11
2nd Reading = Hebrews 12: 18-19, 22-24a
Gospel = Luke 14: 1, 7-14
PEARL - “JUST” HUMILITY
Opening Reflection - Story
Some said it was either Padre Pio or an angel dressed in priest’s clothing that mysteriously appeared at an accident scene in Missouri to anoint nineteen-year-old Katie Lentz and divinely assist rescue workers trying to free her from the crushed car she had been driving. But after five days of the story gone viral, over the internet and on social media, with millions of people offering opinions and speculations of what could have happened, the unknown ‘heavenly miracle worker,’ identified himself as Father Joseph Dowling, a priest of the Jefferson City Diocese.
This is what Father Dowling wrote in answer to all the speculation, “On driving home from 8:30 AM Mass, I saw a line of cars at an accident scene. I stopped, as any priest would do to offer prayers for anyone who might have a need.” That was Fr. Dowling’s simple statement, but it apparently was not sensational enough for a news media that smelled a juicy story. So, still looking for their mysterious miracle worker, the news hungry media pursued Father Dowling and interviewed him on camera. In the interview, Father Dowling seemed embarrassed and humbly rejected the (worldwide) attention and tags of ‘hero’ and ‘miracle worker’ used by the media to describe his actions. “The rescue workers were the heroes, not me,” he insisted. “I did what any priest would do – I was ‘just’ being a priest,” he said.
“Just being a priest.” Every day there are more than 400,000 priests worldwide that despite scant appreciation are just being priests. It is one of the sad pastimes of our day that the “faithful” and not so faithful engage in the criticism of something our priest said or did that we found less than enlightening or uplifting. And we are readily eager to express those feelings. But before we do this the next time, consider this: Here is a man who has dedicated his life to serving the Lord and his people – I know, they don’t do it with perfection. But through the priestly ministry of the Church, the priest, your parish priest, brings you Jesus, in bread and wine, truly present, body, blood, soul, and divinity at every Mass, every day. He hears your confession so you can once again be in the state of grace and be fit for heaven. He preaches the good news of Jesus Christ to the best of his ability and perhaps if we listened more closely those words would help us draw more closely to God. Additionally, in sacramental ministry he Baptizes, Confirms, witnesses Marriage, anoints when we are sick and buries us when we die. If that is “all” he ever does as “just” being a priest you should thank the Lord for him, encourage him at every opportunity you can, never cease praying for him, and do something tangible to show your gratitude.
In today’s readings, the Lord helps the humble, refreshes our vision and appreciation of the new covenant, and repays humility with heavenly reward.
The wisdom of Sirach speaks to those whose set goals are focus driven and give glory to God for their achievements, “Conduct your affairs with humility…humble yourself the more, the ‘greater’ you are.” This admonition seems to be contradictory. Usually “great” people demand attention and personal service and are anything but humble. But we do have instances of humility among high achievers. Moses trembled at the awesome task God laid before him because he thought he was unable to carry it out - (Exodus 3:11, 4:1, 10). Yet when he surrendered to God’s will and took his eyes off self, God took charge of the Exodus event and used Moses to accomplish great and impossible things.
"True humility is not an abject, groveling, self-despising spirit; it is but a right estimate of ourselves as God sees us." – Tyron Edwards.
Moses saw himself as ‘just’ a tool in the hands of God. God saw him as a willing servant through which he could accomplish mighty deeds.
God rejects aggression that seeks to crush the other and deceit that manipulates and compromises integrity. He desires humility that ‘just’ submits and adheres to his will in response to perfect love.
God’s Goodness Remembered:
Psalm 68 Is an uplifting sometimes spontaneous song of praise to God for his great deeds mostly past as God is remembered where the people were rescued from their persecutors. Isn’t it odd that many of our memories of God’s presence among us were more negative than positive? As children we were dragged to Church and could have been doing more ‘fun’ things elsewhere. Or we were given rigid rules and demands that were almost impossible to keep and just made us more frightened and wanting to avoid this rigid and stern God. But the Psalmist has a simple, even humble purpose for writing. He wants people to remember God’s power over their enemies to stop the persecution. Note some of the verses. “The just rejoice before God…chant praise to His name.” How about that as a humbling habit – rejoicing over God, for what He has done. “He fathers orphans and defends widows (the humble people). He provides for the needy – aren’t we all needy in some way.
Imitation, Highest Form of Flattery:
In our second reading, the Hebrews’ author first looks back at the Israelites gathered at Mount Sinai to seal the old covenant with God. He depicts this as a fearful spectacle, established by an unapproachably terrifying God, so mighty in power that people tremble in his presence. In contrast, he then looks ahead at the (redeemed) followers of Jesus gathered at Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, assembled as the new covenant. It is a scene marked with angels rejoicing, saints present to welcome the new arrivals to heaven, and Jesus, mediator of the new covenant who, by humbling himself and taking on a human nature, makes our new relationship with God possible. Therefore, we have overwhelming reasons to ‘just’ imitate the Lord’s humility, stay faithful to the end, and claim our heavenly inheritance.
Dispensing God’s Mercy:
Today’s Gospel has Jesus at a dinner party with some pride-filled, show-off Pharisees who never missed an opportunity to exalt themselves. As they jockey for seats of importance at table, he teaches a lesson on humility which has eternal consequences for them and us. No one can coerce, manipulate or push their way into heaven. Our importance, social status, birthright or aggressiveness has not earned us an invitation to the supper of the Lamb. We go to Mass because Jesus, our host, has called us to this exalted place of dignity. Here, we embrace our baptismal identity as missionary disciples of Christ; alive in Christ and partnering in his work to transform the world. Because we have received God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness, we generously dispense these rich possessions even to those unable to pay back in kind.
Closing Comments and Questions:
In closing, let’s make a personal application of the story of Father Dowling, who was just being a priest when he stopped at that accident scene in his hometown. Imagine how different the world would be:
• If the 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide would just be Catholic? If you and I lived fully the sacramental life? If we zealously defended the right to life from conception to natural death. If we clearly understood that our purpose on this earth is to know, love, and serve the Lord in this life and be with Him for eternity in the next, and bring a few people with us?
• If the 570 million Protestants would just be more like Jesus, in word and deed?
• If the 1.6 billion Muslims would just more closely imitate the God, they worship?
• Imagine further if those in our families, churches, neighborhoods, and workplaces would just more humbly conform to the scriptural model of more openly practicing their faith at every opportunity given?
• Now, let’s stop imagining and establish a tangible prayer life, humility, ministry outreach, mercy and forgiveness of all and help expedite getting it done.