22nd SUNDAY -C- AUGUST 28, 2022

Sirach 3: 17-18, 20, 28-30; Ps. 68;
Hebrews 12: 18-19, 22-24; Luke 14: 1, 7-14

by Jude Siciliano, OP

Dear Preachers:

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: