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XXII Sunday in Ordinary Time

Humility and gratuitousness

8/30/2019
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Dear Brothers and Sisters, Fiat!

In the scene from today’s Gospel passage, Jesus, in the home of one of the chief  Pharisees, observes that the guests at lunch rush to choose the first place. It is a scene that we have seen so often: seeking the best place even “with our elbows”. Observing this scene, Jesus shares two short parables, and with them two instructions: one concerning the place, and the other concerning the reward.

The first analogy is set at a wedding banquet. Jesus says: “When you are invited by any one to a marriage feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest a more eminent man than you be invited by him; and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man’, and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place” (Lk 14:8-9). With this recommendation, Jesus does not intend to give rules of social behaviour, but rather a lesson on the value of humility. History teaches that pride, careerism, vanity and ostentation are the causes of many evils. And Jesus helps us to understand the necessity of choosing the last place, that is, of seeking to be small and hidden: humility. When we place ourselves before God in this dimension of humility, God exalts us, he stoops down to us so as to lift us up to himself; “For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exhalted” (v. 11).

Jesus’ words emphasize completely different and opposing attitudes: the attitude of those who choose their own place and the attitude of those who allow God to assign it and await a reward from Him. Let us not forget this: God pays much more than men do! He gives us a much greater place than that which men give us! The place that God gives us is close to his heart and his reward is eternal life. “You will be blessed”, Jesus says, “you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (v. 14).

This is what is described in the second parable, in which Jesus points out the attitude of selflessness that ought to characterize hospitality, and he says: “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you” (vv. 13-14). This means choosing gratuitousness rather than self-seeking and calculating to obtain a reward, seeking interest and trying to increase your wealth. Indeed, the poor, the simple, those who ‘don’t count’, can never reciprocate an invitation to a meal. In this way Jesus shows his preference for the poor and the excluded, who are the privileged in the Kingdom of God, and he launches the fundamental message of the Gospel which is to serve others out of love for God. Today, Jesus gives voice to those who are voiceless, and to each one of us he addresses an urgent appeal to open our hearts and to make our own the sufferings and anxieties of the poor, the hungry, the marginalized, the refugees, those who are defeated by life, those who are rejected by society and by the arrogance of the strong. And those who are discarded make up the vast majority of the population.

Jesus often spoke to Luisa about humility. On February 24,  1905 He said that humility is a flower without thorns, and because it is without thorns, it can be held in one’s hand, it can be clasped, it can be placed wherever one wants, without fear of being bothered or pricked. Such is the humble soul: one can say that she does not have the pricks of defects; and since she is without pricks, one can do with her whatever he wants. In fact, not having thorns, naturally she does not prick nor cause bother to others, because thorns are given by one who has them; but if one does not have them, how can he give them?

Not only this, but humility is a flower which strengthens and clears one’s sight; and with its clearness, it knows how to stay away from the thorns themselves.”

 

 

Humility is the littlest plant that can be found,

but its branches are so high as to reach Heaven,

wind their way around my throne,

and penetrate even into my Heart.

This little plant is humility,

and the branches that this plant produces are confidence;

so, there cannot be true humility without confidence.

Humility without confidence is false virtue.

don Marco
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