Quiet Kindness

09-01-2019Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

Today’s scriptural readings are an invitation to us to have an honest reflection and assessment on how we stand with God and people. If we listen to the scripture carefully, we will know how to consider our position with our God and others. It is good in life to occasionally do a “hard assessment” about ourselves. Note it is about our self, and not about other people.

In the first reading, when the wise grandfather Ben Sirach recommends to us the virtue of humility, he is doing far more than urging worldly discretion. Hear him when he says that the humble life “finds favor with God.” Indeed if you are busy all the time looking at yourself, you are not able to look at God, nor are you able to see the goodness of God’s creation around you. Sirach is not suggesting that we disappear, but that God is not impressed at all with wealthy or powerful people, or even people with a lot of “stuff.” It is simply and only our right relationship before God that attracts divine attention.

Bear in mind that the Pharisees in the Gospel passage clearly knew about the words of advice of Ben Sirach as they rushed to get the best seats in the temple or anyplace. These men were the official interpreters of scriptural wisdom, yet they could not see their own reality. They knew the Holy Law of the Torah and could define everyone’s place within it; however, they certainly did not truly know their own place. This amused and upset Jesus so he had to put them in their proper place.

Initially it seems that it is a stretch to connect today’s second reading, a passage from the Letter to the Hebrews, as a part of the theme and message of the Gospel. Surprisingly, it is connected because it reminds us that the Church began not on the crest of a mountain through blazing fire, storm, and trumpet blast, but at the foot of a cross through water and blood that flowed from the side of Christ. This is not triumphalism, but humility at its most sincere and authentic.

It is very apparent that the Church chose today’s Gospel to focus our attention on humility as required of a guest. We recognize that one of favorite images Jesus presented of God was as an extravagant, indiscriminate host who welcomes one and all to his table and also who ultimately will welcome all to the everlasting banquet of the Kingdom. Do you perceive the contrasting image found in today’s passage of Luke regarding the host? As we would say: “Not a nice one!” Just suppose that if God were like the host in this banquet, if God were indeed a discriminating host, then, when it came to sharing the banquet of eternal life, most of us, sadly, would not find ourselves on the guest list. Jesus, however, points out to us that if we are humble guests, we will be welcomed and ushered into the banquet by a humble host. Jesus also says that our humility will prompt our humble host to say to us, “My friend, move up to a higher position.” And thus we will become even closer to God.

Our culture and the present climate in our country do not encourage humility. Braggadocio and hyperbole seem to abound. Everything is allegedly the biggest, the best, and the most spectacular. Quiet kindness seems to be lost in our loud noisy world. The Gospel this weekend is very good for us. It clearly reminds us of who we are and who God is. We are the loved creatures of our God. The world does not revolve around us, but we revolve around our God.