Luke 14:1, 7-14
Go and Take the Lowest Place by Rev. Jack Peterson
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Written to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.
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."
Jesus was the consummate teacher. He was always looking for ways to instruct His disciples transformed by the grace of God, the life of one redeemed by Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit. Occasionally, He would masterfully craft a story like the one about the prodigal son that perfectly explains a crucial aspect of the Good News such as the approach of His Heavenly Father to a repentant sinner. At other times, Jesus would take a real life event and turn it into a powerful teaching moment, like with the woman caught in the act of adultery. On other occasions, Jesus would offer a combination of the two. This week's Gospel passage from Luke is an example of this last method.
Our Lord finds Himself at the house of a leading Pharisee for a dinner party. Seeing people jockeying for positions of honor at the table, He decides it is time to teach the guests about the virtue of humility by telling a parable. Jesus seizes the moment and calls His disciples to begin the arduous process of growing in humility.
Humility is arguable one of the most important virtues. A virtue is a quality of the soul that enables one to do the right thing in specific circumstances with a certain quickness, ease and joyfulness. A virtue flows from deep inside a person, from his or her character. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus invites people to grow, develop and change. This process often begins with a simple encounter with Christ.
It is very important to note that Jesus encourages the dinner guests to do humble things: "go and take the lowest place" and "the one who humbles himself will be exalted, and "when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled. . . "Jesus is teaching us that one of the most significant aspects of developing a virtue is to consistently, intentionally, prayerfully and humbly perform virtuous acts. The repetition of humble acts combined with God's guidance and grace leads to the development of the virtue of humility. The Catechism says, "Human virtues acquired by education, by deliberate acts and by perseverance ever-renewed in repeated efforts are purified and elevated by divine grace. With God's help, they forge character and give facility in the practice of the good" (CCC, No. 1810).
Humility is important because it images Christ and defeats pride. Pride is at the heart of all sin because it was critical to the first sin, the disobedience of Adam and Eve. Humility is incredibly attractive. We all recognize it and deeply appreciate it when we run across someone who is truly humble. It is quite helpful to the spread of the Gospel because it lends authenticity to the message of a disciple of Christ. The very character of a humble person makes you want to listen to what they have to say about what is dear to them. A proud and haughty teacher or preacher, on the other hand, turns people off and makes it doubly hard to listen to a message that already is difficult to embrace.
An everyday dinner party with rather predictable behavior among the guests became a teaching opportunity for Jesus. He tells a parable and teaches a captive audience about the critical Christian virtue of humility. I suppose the host had recently changed Jesus' seat before he was regaled by the Teacher. May we have the strength and grace to humble ourselves so that one day the Lord himself will exalt us.
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