Sirach 3:17-18,20,28-29; Psalm 68; Hebrews12:18-19,22-24; Luke 14:1,7-14
Saint John Baptist de la Salle
August 28, 2022
"For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." I can't really speak for you, but for myself I have never felt very humble. My parents warned me of the dangers of my lack of humility. However, "a young man is the king of every kingdom that he sees." It would take me years, and many disappoints in life, to finally realize that God was fully in charge of my life, and not me. On the other hand, I never really wanted to be exalted, although I do enjoy, to this day, my position as a priest and the many people who say nice things about me. Basically, I have tried to live my life somewhere in between having humility and seeking the praise and honor of others. I have no doubt that God invites us to have a humble heart, that we should be willing to help others no matter who they are. But this message about humility from today's Scripture is a lesson for us to learn and to approve upon throughout our lifetime.
Today's Gospel is one of Jesus' parables that is meant to teach people across the centuries what it means to act with humility and not seek exaltation. Sometimes, though, these parables do not translate literally to our modern lives. Yet, if we pay attention, we can see, at least at times, the kind of humility we are called to as followers of Jesus. About ten years ago I was invited by a family to travel to New York City to marry a young woman who I had Baptized thirty years before. The marriage of Joy Piazza was the most lavish wedding and reception I had ever seen. At the reception, I spoke with the owner of the iconic restaurant where the wedding banquet was held. While we talked he told me the story of "Sara," whose last name I don't remember, I think of her each time I read this Gospel.
I continue to marvel at the ways Sara's lived experience connects to today's readings. Sara and her fiancé called off their wedding just a week before it was scheduled to occur. barely had time to notify her invited guests not to come. The cost of the $30,000 wedding banquet was simply non-refundable. Sara did not want the food to go to waste, so she reached out to a nearby homeless shelter, in order to fill the 170 seats at the tables. Sara had told the owner of the restaurant that this was an opportunity to let these homeless people know they deserved to be at a place like this as much as everyone else does. When word began to spread about what Sara was doing many others started to help. Some stores donated clothing for the homeless while others donated flowers and decorations for the banquet. On that day, that would have been "her big day," Sara, her mother, a few bridesmaids and even the owner of the restaurant, greeted her guests. On the day when Sara would have been the center of attention, she directed that attention 1to the needs of others.
Now, each year, the restaurant still hosts "Sara Day," where the homeless in that part of the city are invited to a lavish banquet. It's unlikely most of us will have a chance to throw $30,000 party for strangers. However, each week we have a chance to offer a priceless welcome to those who join us at the Eucharistic table. This parable should help us reflect on the effort we make to reach out to others. Are we making enough effort to reach out to those who seem lonely? How are we trying to bring back to our parish community those who feel unwanted, those who have simply stopped coming to our Church, especially because of Covid? We must see every Sunday as a celebration that gives us a chance to honor the needs and humanity of others. We must also remind ourselves of the ways in which we are broken and in need. We must remember that in doing so we honor our God who invites all of us to the heavenly banquet.