Luke 14:1, 7-14
The Attractiveness of Humility
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."

Humility is attractive.  When someone is particularly talented or skilled but conducts themselves with humility, we tend to have even greater admiration for them.  We are quick to listen to them and even imitate them.  One of the men in my community is very, very intelligent.  After graduating from Virginia Tech, he was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship and completed his doctoral work at Oxford in physics.  Over the years, he has helped pioneer new studies in fields of physics while teaching at a leading university in the United States. 

This brother remains remarkably humble.  He never speaks about his field of work unless asked.  Even when asked, he soon changes the subject to another topic or asks you about your life.  I have never heard him try to impress anyone with his expertise.  You would never know that he is such an accomplished scholar.  What comes across instead is his interest in your life and his love of God, family and Church.

Humility is one of the most important of all the Christian virtues.  It is a quality of the soul that Jesus modeled at every stage of His life.  It all began with Jesus’ birth – a most profound mystery.  God chose to break through the barriers of time and space and unite Himself with our humanity in an immensely humble act.  “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.”  In fact, He was born in a stable because there was no room in the inn.  He was kept warm by His mother and foster father, with the assistance of the farm animals whose feeding trough he borrowed for a crib.  The King of Kings was too weak at the start to even hold up a shepherd’s crook.

Additionally, the Word-made-flesh spent His first 30 years in relative quiet and solitude.  His first miracle was performed at His mother’s prompting.  He chose a rather motley crew for His closest disciples.  The Son of God allowed Himself to go through a mockery of a trial admitting that He could have called upon legions of angels to protect Him and fight for Him if it had been the Father’s will.  Finally, Jesus, the totally innocent One, surrendered His life to the Father while being crucified between two criminals, a punishment given only to the most serious public offenders.  Jesus’ life was marked by a profound humility.

Describing the Incarnation, St. Paul writes: “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.  Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross”  (Phil 2:6-8).

Since humility is so important, it makes sense that it would be praised in the Old Testament as well.  This is the case with this week’s beautiful passage from the book of Sirach: “My child, conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts.  Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God” (Sir 3:17-18).  This wise author notes the attractiveness of humility and how it is a gift pleasing to the Lord.

Jesus preaches about the virtue of humility in Luke 14 by describing how it influences our motivations and actions at a banquet.  When you are a guest at a banquet, “go and take the lowest place.”  When you throw a banquet, “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.”  The humble see the world from a different perspective; they see it with the eyes of God.

The wisdom of the Scriptures, the jaw-dropping example of Jesus, and the powerful testimony of a serious Christian invite us to seek, pray for and cherish the gift of a truly humble heart.  “My child, conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts you will find favor with God.”

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