Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 1, 2019 Cycle C

by Rev. Jose Maria Cortes, F.S.C.E., Chaplain,
Saint John Paul II National Shrine,
 Washington, D.C.

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Sunday Reading Meditations

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Today’s readings teach us that humility is the foundation and root of all virtues.

Original sin was a sin of pride. All Christian life, as Saint Bernard says, is a journey from pride to humility and from humility to ecstasy. Our pride must be buried for humility to flourish. We must drown the old man in the waters of baptism in order to bring out the new man.

In order to become humble, we need to learn from the perfect example of humility. Jesus says: “Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart” (Mt 11:29). We must participate in the Paschal mystery by accepting the humiliations that life invariably brings us.  We should ask ourselves how we deal with humiliation: does it close us in on ourselves, leaving us resentful and isolated, or does it open us to God?

Today’s first reading says: “Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God” (Sir 3:18).  In the book Imitation of Christ, Thomas à Kempis wrote: "Thus, the humble man enjoys peace in the midst of many vexations, because his trust is in God, not in the world." As Mother Teresa said, “[w]e learn humility through accepting humiliations cheerfully.” If we accept humiliations in a prayerful way, we prune our pride, bringing forth abundant fruit: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit” (Jn 15:1‒2).

To be humble means to put Christ at the center of our lives. We need to follow the example of Saint John the Baptist: “He [Christ] must increase; but I must decrease” (Jn 3:30). We learn humility from the saints. First of all from Mary, the humble handmaid of the Lord, and then from the innumerable men and women who have followed Jesus. Today’s second reading says: “You have approached Mount Zion and the city of the living God […], and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven […] the spirits of the just made perfect” (Heb 12:22‒23).

In today’s Gospel, Jesus addresses people usurping places of honor for themselves: “They were choosing the places of honor at table” (Lk 14:7). He tells them a parable. It is not up to us to choose a place of honor, as we ought to let someone else decide where our place should be. Humility means to accept being chosen, rather than choosing: “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you” (Jn 15:16). If we choose to allow ourselves to be chosen, we shall experience true glorification. As Jesus says, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk 14:11).

At the end of the Gospel, Jesus seems to change the subject when he tells us not invite guests who can reciprocate our hospitality. He is speaking about gratuitousness, which means to act without calculation and solely out of love. However, Christ is not changing the subject. He is saying that the goal of humility is love, to participate in God’s life: “The one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk 14:11).

In the Canticle of the Magnificat, Mary sings: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed” (Lk 1:46-48). Let us follow the humble example of the handmaid of the Lord. May Our Lady obtain for us the virtue of humility.  Amen.