On a sabbath Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully. 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.' Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." Then he said to the host who invited him, "When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."
Introductory Prayer: Lord God, I come from dust and to dust I shall return. You, however, existed before all time, and every creature takes its being from you. You formed me in my mother's womb with infinite care, and you watch over me tenderly. I hope you will embrace my soul at my death to carry me home to heaven to be with you forever. Thank you for looking upon me and blessing me with your love. Take my love in return. I humbly offer you all that I am. Petition: Grant me, Lord, to put my life humbly in your hands.
1. Opening the Door to God: Today's reading shows us Jesus dining at the house of a Pharisee. Apparently they had invited him in order to examine him closely, as they tended to find fault with everyone who was not of their sect. Jesus turns the tables by calling them to task for their pride. Inviting Jesus into our lives always means opening ourselves to a challenge. He will reward our generosity by offering us the road to greater holiness – which means that he will reveal our weaknesses to us and challenge us to be better. Christianity isn't comfortable. We have to be ready to discover that we are not as holy and good as we thought we were. Humility is an essential virtue for any true Christian. We need to ask ourselves if we give God the first place at the table in our lives, and if we are really listening to his invitation to conquer our defects and grow in sanctity.
2. The Quickest Way Up Is to Go Down: Living humility may be difficult sometimes because of our natural tendency to be self-centered, "to look out for #1." Nonetheless, Jesus teaches that living humility is the gateway to the road that leads to happiness. If we are only looking out for ourselves, seeking the highest "places of honor," we are bound to be disappointed. God does not reward self-love. Moreover, because of our limitations, we do not know well what is good for us, nor are we able to achieve it without God's grace. The rewards we can expect from human beings – honors, power, pleasure – are limited in time and quantity, and cannot satisfy our soul, which yearns for God. How often has our pride been the cause of conflict and unhappiness? God will lift us up to true fulfillment only if we get down from our own ivory tower of egotism.
3. Save Room for Dessert… If we are humble and seek to serve God instead of our own aggrandizement, then we leave the reward up to God: He will give us the place in his plan that is best for us. God's reward is always better than what the world can offer because he promises everlasting life and the joy of heaven. Although we don't know exactly what that will be like, Jesus clearly tells us that it's so good, we should strive not to be rewarded in this life. That seems to go against common sense – "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush" – but if we really have faith in God and his Word, we need to put it into practice. If life is like the banquet of today's reading, our time in this world is just the appetizer. "What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Corinthians 2:9).
Conversation with Christ: Lord, help me to trust in you completely, not seeking myself, but doing my best to serve you with humility and letting you take care of the rest. I know you are all good and loving, and you will not let those who serve you go without their reward.
Resolution: Today I will practice humility by putting others first in whatever way I can: yielding to them in conversation, giving them the first choice when possible…