Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time (C) 9.1.2013

Today's Gospel contains two teachings of similar styles. Both start with when, When you go to a banquet and When you give a banquet. Both have a cautioning phrase, don’t.  Don't sit at a high place, lest you be put down, and Don’t put out a spread for the rich to impress them, lest you already receive your reward. And both have the teaching, but, But when you go to a banquet and But when you give a banquet.

The Lord is not playing Miss Manners. He's not giving lessons in proper etiquette. He is teaching us the proper way to view ourselves and others. He is teaching us about honor, respect, and, particularly, about humility.

A number of years ago there was a terrible article entitled You are where you sit. Part of it is as follows:

"In Hollywood you are where you sit. This is called power seating.  A strategically placed table indicates to the community your prominent and important position in the industry. It is so important that major studios assign a full time PR person to make sure the studio doesn't play second fiddle to anyone. One television producer had his secretary call before a meal and politely note that if the table isn't in the right place, her boss wouldn't go. One producer put it this way, ‘Information is power. I don't want to be seen seated with two dentists and three veterinarians.  It ruins my image. They have nothing to offer me". 

That is horrible! What is worse is that we are all tempted to do this.  Are we concerned with whom we are seen sitting with in the cafeteria, at the business lunch, at a social occasion when there isn’t assigned seating? If that is the case, then we need to listen closely to that first instruction.

The first dinner instruction speaks about who we are before the Lord. We are told that we shouldn't think so highly of ourselves that we put ourselves over other people. Symbolically, we shouldn't move to the best table at the banquet thinking that we are so much better than everyone else.

There are many people who imply that are better than others because they have had a spiritual experience or are members of a spiritual support group, “You haven't made this movement, you haven't visited this shrine, well, you're just not up there, spiritually," they say without using words. A truly holy person would never belittle the faith-life of another person. The first dinner instruction encourages us to recognize who we are before the Lord, not to be concerned with making believe we are better than others.

And who are we before the Lord? We are people with gifts and with shortcomings, just like everyone else. Our value comes from God’s gracious gift of His Love to us. What matters is what He has given us, not what we have taken on ourselves. What matters is where He places us at the table of the Banquet of Love, not where we think we should be seated.

The second part of the gospel speaks about honoring people for favors to come later.

The second dinner instruction, about not looking for pay-backs, tells us to be sincere. The Christian attitude should be to care genuinely for others, not try to buy them. We need to be concerned with whom others are, not what they can do for us. When we do that we are honoring the Lord who is present within them. Jesus says, Invite those who cannot repay you. This teaching is in direct contrast to the “What’s in it for me mentality,” that motivates so many people. Christians are to be different from the people of the world.

So, the two dinner instructions remind us that we are not the center of the world. God is! Our value does not come from how others view us.  Our success is not due to what others can do for us. Our value, our success comes from our relationship to our Center, our God. That is humility! ■

Y entonces uno se queda con la Iglesia, que me ofrece lo único que debe ofrecerme la Iglesia: el conocimiento de que ya estamos salvados –porque esa es la primera misión de la Iglesia, el anunciar la salvación gracias a Jesucristo- y el camino para alcanzar la alegría, pero sin exclusividades de buen pastor, a través de esa maravilla que es la confesión y los sacramentos. La Iglesia, sin partecitas.

laus deo virginique matris