In our world the famous and influential are memorialized in very concrete ways. For musicians there is the Jazz Hall of Fame in Oklahoma; for baseball stars the Baseball Hall Of Fame; football has its Football Hall Of Fame, etc. (In Vallejo, California there is a Hall of Fame Barbershop – but it is just the name of an active barbershop.) The members of various halls of fame are pursued by their fans for autographs and memorabilia. Some of these personalities travel with their own entourages.
In Jesus’ day the Pharisees had their "fans." They were admired for their religious practices and for their exemplary behavior. They were treated well by their admirers and probably were among those in our gospel story choosing places of honor at the table. They probably felt they were entitled to them. One could get used to such favored treatment and think it was our due.
Jesus had been invited to the home of one of the leading Pharisees. He was being closely watched by them and, in turn, he was watching them. The atmosphere was probably "edgy" because it was the Sabbath and Jesus had already been criticized by the Pharisees for his "inappropriate" Sabbath observances. For example, he had broken the Law by curing a man on the Sabbath (6:6-11); healing a woman who was crippled for 18 years (13:10-17), etc. Contrary to what they were saying about him, Jesus was attempting to show that the seeming-piety of the Pharisees was a façade for their lack of humility and true observance of the Law.
In contrast to ostentatious displays Jesus advises his disciples take a lower place at table and avoid the humiliation of being asked by the host to yield the place of honor to a more distinguished guest. They should take, he says, a lesser place so they might be honored by being invited to come up higher at the table.
Now we know that Jesus wasn’t teaching his disciples a technique to receive plaudits before their peers. Rather, he is directing them to shun ostentation and identify with the least. And more: he tells them when they hold a banquet to invite "the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind." In this teaching he seems to be addressing people of means – who else could have a banquet? Those who have, are to share with those who have not.
Bottom line: a disciples’ expressions of love should not depend on expecting equal returns. Jesus will show them what true love and humility are by his upcoming passion and the gift of himself for sinners. We have been baptized in that love and so must reflect it in the ways we serve the world– especially the least.
One of the signs of humility is allowing ourselves to be personally touched by another’s pain. To let that happen requires a new and humbler way of seeing. If I live and view the world from a comfortable and powerful position I will never see and feel the pain of the hurting. But if I take on the perspective of the powerless and needy I will be seeing with a different set of eyes – their eyes.
As an example of this different worldview: back in the ’60s the Latin American theologians challenged believers to develop and foster a "preferential option for the poor." In Medellin, Colombia in 1968 and at Puebla in 1979 the Latin American bishops endorsed what the theologians proposed. St. Pope John Paul II also supported this policy. But the challenge to believers is to enact this policy, put it into practice and develop a new perspective.
One way this can happen is to read the Scriptures from the life experience of the poor and disenfranchised. Jesus shows us this, for he acted with preference for the poor, simple, powerless and marginalized. It was these who heard his preaching about God’s love for them and were the ones he healed through his ministry. His first disciples were among the least. What they experienced in Christ drew them to him and encouraged them to accept his invitation to follow him.
The option for the poor is more than making an occasional donation that results in our feeling good about what we have done. Would we not only give a check, or bag of food for the poor, but also share a meal with them? Maybe this is not wise during our Covid and Monkeypox precautions. Instead, we will have to draw on our creativity to humbly reach out beyond the confines of our daily life so we can, in the words of the Latin American theologians and bishops, "make a preferential option for the poor."
Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
God gives a
home to the forsaken
In a 2017 interview, Pope Francis tells of an encounter that Pope John Paul II had with a homeless man:
"There is a famous story in the Vatican about
a homeless person, of Polish origin, who usually stayed in Piazza Risorgimento
in Rome. He didn’t speak to anyone, not even the Caritas volunteers who brought
him a hot meal in the evening. Only after a long time did they manage to have
him tell his story: "I am a priest. I know your pope well; we studied together
in seminary," he said. Word arrived to St. John Paul II, who heard the name,
confirmed he was in seminary with him, and wanted to meet him. They embraced
after 40 years, and at the end of the audience the Pope asked the priest. . .to
hear his confession. "Now it is your turn," Pope John Paul II said. And his
companion from seminary went to confession with the Pope. Thanks to the gesture
of one volunteer, a hot meal, a few words of comfort, and a look of kindness,
this person recovered and resumed a normal life that led him to become a
hospital chaplain. The pope helped him. Certainly this is a miracle, but it is
also an example to say that homeless people have a great dignity."
The theme of human dignity is manifest in Catholic Social Teaching and housing is the principal way a person’s dignity can be protected. Pope Francis states: "Each person has dignity. I was interested to learn that Central Africa is the country of the "Zo kwe zo", the country where everybody is somebody. Everything must be done to protect the status and dignity of the human person. Consequently, access to education and to health care. . .and efforts to ensure decent housing for everyone must be at the forefront of a development concerned for human dignity. In effect, our human dignity is expressed by our working for the dignity of our fellow man" (11/29/15).
The Wednesday after Labor Day, Cathedral will be re-opening the Door Ministry to people struggling with past due rents and eviction notices. Please contribute to the Door Fund on-line or make your check payable and mail to: Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral 219 W. Edenton St. Raleigh, NC 27603 Note in the memo line the name, Door Fund.
Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS, Director,
Office of Human Life, Dignity, and Justice Ministries
Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, Raleigh, NC
Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.
From today’s Gospel reading:
"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."
Jesus is preparing us for a banquet where those in most need will receive honors and fulfillment. Since that will be the case, we ought to do some "kingdom practicing" now: act in ways that will reflect the kingdom in which we are already citizens— treat the poor as honored guests in our lives.
So we ask ourselves:
I don’t want a moratorium on
the death penalty, I want the abolition of it. I can’t understand
why a county [USA] that is so committed to human rights doesn’t find
the death penalty and obscenity.
This is a particularly vulnerable time for state and federal prisoners. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of the inmates listed below to let them know we have not forgotten them. If the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.
Please write to:
----Central Prison, P.O. 247 Phoenix, MD 21131
Please note: Central Prison is in Raleigh, NC., but for security purposes, mail to inmates is processed through a clearing house at the above address in Maryland.
For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:http://catholicsmobilizing.org/resources/cacp/
On this page you can sign "The National Catholic Pledge to End the Death Penalty." Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the Death Penalty: http://www.pfadp.org/
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