1 September 201922 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
22 Ordinary Time
22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle C
Luke 14: 1, 7-14

The delicious writer that is England's PD James in her novel Skull Beneath the Skin pens this line, "The sermon lasted fifteen minutes and was a learned dissertation on the Pauline theology of redemption. As they rose to sing the hymn, Ivo whispered to Cordelia, 'That's all one asks of a sermon. No possible relevance to anything but itself.'" Had Ivo heard Jesus speak today's Gospel, he would find the message had his name written all over it. So too would Cordelia. So too will most of us.

When today's Gospel opens, the Teacher was somewhere in Perea. It was a narrow strip of land east of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea twenty miles wide and sixty miles long. He was a guest at a supper party in the home of a VIP Pharisee. He must have been delighted to get a good sit-down meal after so many quick suppers at fast food counters on the road.

Some scholars feel the occasion may well have been a wedding banquet. One wonders what sort of gift He brought for the bride. And did He dance with her? Marc Chagall would say yes. In any event, it gave Him an unusually good opportunity to observe the various guests as they entered the catering hall. A number of them were anything but studies in humility.

Thus we have His timeless observations on our human condition. To paraphrase poet ee cummings, they open the eyes of our eyes. They remind us that if we are looking for faults to correct, we need but look in a mirror. We are in St Luke's debt. It is only he who tells us of this parable.

Jesus' theme is of course puffed-up pride, a vice much present in our society. No doubt the Christ would have laughed His head off at the story of the man who was awarded a gold medal for his humility. Unhappily it had to be taken away from him, for he had taken to wearing it proudly.

Recently I met two men whom I had not seen in some time. The first breathlessly exhausted himself and me with the interminable length he spent in talking about himself and his health. He never had the time to even quickly ask me, "How are you?" Given the time his monologue had consumed, I secretly was just as happy. I had another appointment.

The second told me that he was flattered that I had remembered his name. I told him the college where he taught still talks about the numbers of students who chose to take his course. The eager pupils sat on the floor when there were no more desks. He turned away the praise by telling me how much he had enjoyed some articles I had published.

The second man was hardly in need of today's Gospel. The first decidedly was. More importantly, which one of them is a type for our own selves?

Some years ago I was introduced to Mother Teresa by a friend. She refused to talk about herself. She wanted to know of the work I was involved in for New York's Catholic Charities in Harlem tenements. The same modus operandi was followed by Dorothy Day and Archbishop Helder Camara of Brazil when I met with them. The word "I" did not seem to be in their vocabularies. All three were walking studies in humility. They had learned the lessons of today's Gospel. But have I? I fear not. Have you? You must answer that question for yourself.

If you too must answer in the negative, none of us should despair. Life's challenges, said a sage, are designed not to break us but to bend us toward God.

Perhaps we would all do well to reflect on this piece of wisdom I found in the Christopher notes. The sage said, "Let me tell you of the most important words in life. The six most important are, `I admit I made a mistake.' The five most important are, `You did a good job.' The four most important are, `What is your opinion?' The three most important are, `If you please.' The two most important are, 'My gratitude.' The least important is `I.'

Glue this prophet's advice on your bathroom mirror. "Knowing God makes us humble. Knowing ourselves keeps us humble."
Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
22 Ordinary Time
Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time: Humility

Today's reading call us to consider the topic of humility. Humility is a virtue we all struggle to obtain. Its opposite, pride, is the fundamental flaw of all human beings. Consider the beginning of Genesis and the story of the first sin. There is a far deeper element to the story of original sin than the mere decision of Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. This was the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

If they ate this fruit they would experience evil. But Adam and Eve decided that they were not going to be told what to do or not do by God. The serpent said to them, "Eat this and you will be like God." He appealed to their pride. They didn't eat the apple because they were hungry and there was nothing else to eat. They ate the apple because they decided that they did not need God. The original sin of mankind was disobedience occasioned by pride.

We have to make war on our own pride. When we think about it, all of our sins are rooted in our own pride. There is that "nobody is going to tell me what to do," element of every sin, the expression of pride. "You gotta problem with that," the sinner says be he or she a bully, an adulterer or what have you. They are really not just saying that to their victims or to society; they are saying that to God.

Pride manifests itself when we are concerned about our status in this or that group, at work, in the neighborhood, at school, etc. Sometimes we ask in exasperation, "Who does he think he's talking to?" Well, who do we think that we are? We forget that we are nothing without God, and everything only because of God.

We need humility. We need people of humility to show us how to live in proper relationship to God. We have been given many great examples. St. Teresa of Calcutta was certainly a humble little lady who was a giant before God. She knew what God had called her to do, and was not concerned what people said about her. St. John Paul II was a kind man who did not think so highly about himself that he would not sit on a stage during the World Youth Day entertainments and laugh with the young people.

We have particularly been blessed with the experience of our present Holy Father, Pope Francis, who is a man of humility. He knows his position before God is Vicar of Christ and, as we have learned, he protects his office, refusing to let others run the Church around him. Many bishops and cardinals are still licking their wounds after attempting to circumvent Pope Francis. He protects the papacy, but when it comes to himself as the pope, he is extremely humble.

Priests and bishops who are sent to work in Rome used to see the Holy Father rather infrequently, only if they were needed to present something directly to the Pope regarding their ministry. The Holy Father's rooms were in the Apostolic Palace. His meals were taken there. Well, that was all before Pope Francis. Pope Francis doesn't live in the Apostolic Palace.

He lives with the priests working in the Vatican. His apartment is one of the rooms available for any of the Vatican clergy. He takes his meals as one of the many who line up for the buffet. Can you imagine being on line for lunch, turning around, and there is the Pope on line behind you? That is exactly what is happening most days in the Vatican. When it comes to himself, Pope Francis is a humble man before the Lord. After he became Pope, a reporter asked him, "Who is Jorge Bergoglio?" The Pope responded, "A sinner." He knows that who we are before the Lord is due to the Lord's grace and mercy, not due to our own innate qualities.

Who are you, who am I before the Lord? We are sinners in continual need of God's mercy. The words that we speak immediately before communion are not just a prayer formula, but an expression of whom we are: "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed." We are not looking for the best seats in the banquet hall of the Lord. We are humbled that we have been invited to the meal.

We end the Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass with the proclamation of where all glory and honor belong: through Him and with Him and in Him, O God almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor are yours forever and ever.

The prophet Micah wrote, in Micah 6:8, "You have been told, O Man what the Lord requires of you: only to do right, to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God." We don't need to be full of ourselves. We can fight off the pride that ruins our lives. We can be humble.

Perhaps sometimes, you feel, perhaps sometimes, I feel, "I am not good enough--not good enough as a husband or wife, as a parent, as a priest, whatever" When we feel this way, we are right, and we are wrong. By ourselves, we are never good enough. That would be pride. But we are not by ourselves. We have the Lord. Or, better, He has us. And it is the Lord who makes us good enough, good enough to do the work of His Kingdom.

We pray today for the courage to embrace our true dignity and walk humbly with our God.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
22 Ordinary Time
Nothing More Beautiful
(September 1, 2019)

Bottom line: Humility is hard but there is nothing more beautiful or more valued.

Today we have one of my favorite Scripture verses, Sirach says "my child, conduct your affairs with humility and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts".

Now, I don't want to discourage gifts - especially with my birthday coming up! This year the Hispanic community is using the occasion to raise funds for the Called to Serve as Christ campaign. Gifts are nice especially when they embody care and love. Most of us don't need more stuff, but a well thought out gift is wonderful.

Thoughtfulness makes the gift. That's why planned giving is powerful. A guy may be in debt but if in a planned way he gives a percentage of his income his finances begin to turn around. A thoughtful planned gift ha power. Yet even greater than a gift is humility. "My child, conduct your affairs with humility and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts".

Archbishop Sartain has given a magnificent example of humility. You probably know that today the Cathedral hosts a Mass and reception to wish the archbishop well as he prepares for retirement. On Wednesday he has a luncheon with priests. These events signal his transition to retirement. According to canon law the moment Pope Francis accepts his retirement, coadjutor archbishop Etienne automatically becomes "ordinary" - the one in charge.

In his decade with us Archbishop Sartain has inspired some wonderful young men to seek the priesthood and he has cared for older priests - especially those facing major illness. A few years ago he undertook a major campaign - Called to Serve as Christ - to meet the needs of elderly priests and sisters.

As you can imagine it has involved an enormous amount of work - organizing, meeting with donors and series of dinners promoting the campaign. He could have put this off. He has a good reason - the crippling back ailment that saps his energy and stamina. Still he accepted the burden with good humor and focus on the other person. That's humility in action.

Humility doesn't mean saying, "Oh, poor me. I'm such a failure." No, humility begins with gratitude - the daily effort to recognize that what I have and what I am comes from God and that he means me to use it for his glory and the good of my brothers and sisters.

As we hear in the Gospel humility focuses on the needs of others - the crippled, the lame, the blind. You know who they are. Humility includes the willingness to take the lowest place, to stop worrying what people think about me. Instead accept the task God places before me. I might feel more comfortable with screen time enclosed in my own world, but humility means getting out where I may not be number one.

We have families and parishes so we can learn humility. Those are places where we don't always get our way. Humility is hard but there is nothing more beautiful or more valued. "My child, conduct your affairs with humility and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts". Amen.

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
22 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
22 Ordinary Time
Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

  The Gospel this Sunday is about humility. Christ urges us not to shove ourselves forward in an ambitious way trying to make ourselves out to be better or more important than we actually are. He says that the better thing for us is to be modest and unassuming; and if by doing this you have undervalued yourself, others will surely rectify the situation for you.

Jesus notices that the people attending the meal to which he had also been invited were vying for position. This is behaviour that to onlookers would appear to be somewhat unseemly. You can just imagine that there might have been a certain amount of jostling and a lot of glaring between the guests.

But there is a motive for their behaviour, for to end up with a lesser place, according to them, would result in a loss of status. In a hierarchical society status was something that was regarded as particularly important and so asserting their status is therefore uppermost in their minds. People would have expended a lot of energy all through their lives constantly trying to maintain or, if possible, to improve their social position.

Our society is a lot less class ridden now that it used to be. Right up until recent years birth in this country was considered to be vitally important. If you were born into the right family then you could expect to live a life of privilege and position even if you did not have all that much money. What mattered was the family name and who you were connected to.

This has become a lot more watered down in modern society and yet even today parents will go to extraordinary lengths to give their children a privileged start in life. They want their children to have every possible social advantage.

And all this is quite understandable. We want to make the most of what we have, we want to look good in front of others, we want to constantly improve our situation in life. And yet, here in this Gospel text Jesus proposes that we adopt a position that is the complete opposite. He tells us to act with humility and he tells us that paradoxically this will gain us even greater advantage if not in this life then most surely in the next one.

He proposes that we hold back, that we don't push ourselves forward, that we take a lesser place in life and that doing things this way will reap rich rewards in the long term.

It is true that asserting one's status often leads to arrogance and feelings of superiority. We end up believing that our privileges have come as our right without our ever having done anything to deserve them. There is a funny old saying, 'chose your parents with care.' These people believe that because they happened to be born into particular families it means that everyone else should fall at their feet. Yet we know that the history of every illustrious family is littered with buffoons and 'chinless wonders.'

As always, here Jesus is proposing the path of the virtues. We know what the seven heavenly virtues are: chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness and humility. The one that he is emphasising in his words that we are reflecting on today is, of course, humility, but actually we should try to embody them all as well as we can.  

The true Christian constantly examines his conscience and asks themselves whether they are adhering to these virtues or not. And when they find some aspects of these virtues are lacking they try to make them a greater reality in their lives. The older we get the more we realise that it is these virtues that are the secret to living a truly fulfilling life.

There are two aspects to the virtues; the first is that by applying them we come to be gradually more and more appreciated by those around us as kind and understanding and helpful people. They help us to transform our character and enable us to become easier to live with.

The second is that the virtues are the basis for what we in the Church call moral theology; this is basically the study of how to make the moral decisions appropriate for a Christian in the world of today. We look at the various problems that face us and work out a whole sequence of different choices we could make. Then by application of the virtues we are able to work out which of these choices would be the right one in our particular circumstances.

By asking ourselves just what a chaste, temperate, charitable, diligent, patient, kind and humble person would do in the particular situation we can come to a very clear idea about what is the right and best choice to make.

As we have seen Christ focusses in his words today on humility and his remarks were certainly very pointed and directed at people who were highly ambitious and who needed to learn a lesson about a better way to proceed in life.

But he goes much further, and addresses even more challenging words to his host telling him to invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind to his parties precisely because they cannot repay him. In this way, he tells his host that if he follows these instructions, he will lay up treasures for himself in heaven.

You can imagine that the host, having managed to get this travelling celebrity to accept his dinner invitation, was delighted to invite the local worthies to the meal in the full expectation that they would have to repay him for providing such an outstanding evening. He was presuming that his little coup would mean that his status in the town was sure to rise.

But what Jesus actually says is not what any of them expects. On that splendid evening I don't believe that many of them were entertained, rather, I think that these words of Jesus put them all off their digestion and gave them a great deal to think about. 
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