AUGUST 28TH, 2016: TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
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.
What is too sublime for you, seek not,
into things beyond your strength search not.
The mind of a sage appreciates proverbs,
and an attentive ear is the joy of the wise.
Water quenches a flaming fire,
and alms atone for sins.
Brothers and sisters:
You have not approached that which could be touched
and a blazing fire and gloomy darkness
and storm and a trumpet blast
and a voice speaking words such that those who heard
begged that no message be further addressed to them.
No, you have approached Mount Zion
and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem,
and countless angels in festal gathering,
and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven,
and God the judge of all,
and the spirits of the just made perfect,
and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant,
and the sprinkled blood that speaks more eloquently than that of Abel.
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 every one 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.”
Most of us take movie background music for granted. Even we old-timers have grown up with it, rarely reflecting on it’s being an artificial element. Yet, Jaws, for instance, certainly wouldn’t have become the great classic film it is without John Williams’ suspense filled soundtrack.
The problem is, as far as I can tell, that none of us have special music playing in the background as we live our lives. What we take for granted in movies, we omit from our day by day existence. Such things just aren’t there in real life.
But that’s not totally correct. In some sense, Scripture is the background music our faith lives. To those who read and study this special library, it’s always there, giving significance to our following of the risen Jesus, constantly running through our minds like a movie soundtrack.
Even before that First Century CE Galilean carpenter began his itinerant preaching ministry, followers of Yahweh were familiar with such a soundtrack. About 500 years before Jesus’ birth, the Torah – Scripture’s first five books – had taken the form with which we’re familiar today. Through the years, other books, like Sirach, were also added to the themes faithful Jews surfaced as they tried to give themselves over to Yahweh’s will. As we hear in today’s first reading, humility, wisdom and almsgiving were always playing in the back of the minds of true Israelites. They gave deeper meaning to the life of all Jews.
Of course, as I mentioned above, music isn’t actually playing as we live our lives. It only plays when we want it to play. Most of the time we don’t reflect on the important things, people or situations we daily experience until long after we encounter them. Luke’s Jesus seems to take that for granted. Though the risen Jesus’ soundtrack doesn’t automatically become part of our personal soundtrack when we awake each morning, he wants us to do what’s necessary to have it kick in.
According to Jesus, there’s significance in everything we do, even to where we sit during a formal dinner. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet,” he insists, “do not recline at table in the place of honor.” Somehow we’re to be so honest that we appreciate not only our own importance, but also the importance of others. That’s biblical humility. “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, but those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
He even expects us to concretize that humble theme music when we throw a party. “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 . . . invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.”
The author of the Letter to the Hebrews certainly turns up the volume; putting our simple Christian actions on a level of symbolism anyone would enjoy hearing. In the ordinary events of our lives, we can actually “touch” the God among us, come in contact with “the spirits of the just made perfect,” and even encounter the risen Jesus.
But perhaps the music which best keeps us on the road the risen Jesus expects us to take is in the last line of our gospel passage: “You will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” This creates the soundtrack for all Christian lives. We constantly look beyond. If we don’t, then as Paul said in I Corinthians, we’re the most ridiculous of all people. We’re going through life without hearing the music which gives meaning to that life.