22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C (2)

Today’s readings teach us that if we want to avoid a life of frustrated schemes and aspirations we must, in humility, seek the place in life the Lord has prepared for us and trust he has a place prepared for us in Heaven too. It is a place of honor. The alternative is humiliation in this life and the next.

Today’s First Reading reminds us that humility attracts people more than buying gifts ever could. The way you deal with others determines their respect (or disrespect) for you. Buying it is overpriced and costly. The humble person realizes his limitations and imperfections no matter how great he actually is. He also realizes that in some things he can be over his head or out of his league: humility is solid self-knowledge. Lastly, he knows there’s always something new to learn and appreciates good advice.

Today’s Second Reading, addressed to Christians who were tired and discouraged, reminds us that the distance between God and us has been eliminated. The Lord no longer hides in fire and smoke. He is no longer beyond our reach or our experience. Every Sunday we are at table with him—the Mass—and he shows us our place in his heart through the gift of his life. Abel was killed for having pleased the Lord, causing Cain’s jealousy; Our Lord gave up his own life to please his Father and save us: that is humble service. If someone as great as the Lord was willing to shed his blood for you there’s no reason to seek other signs of his respect and esteem for you. He cherishes and honors you through his sacrifice on the Cross.

The most obvious question that crosses anyone’s mind when hearing today’s Gospel, a parable about Heaven, is, “what spot am I going to get?” That question shows flawed logic. Our Lord teaches us today that invitees don’t decide their own spot in his banquet. We don’t decide any spots in our life on our own. The quest for honorable positions, according to worldly logic—power, wealth, etc., is almost a guarantee of failure, because we seek the spot we don’t deserve.

We see this in so many areas of our life: school, sports, work, and family. Despite this, we keep seeking them and then suffer the shame of returning to a spot that may even be a step down from what we could have merited through humility. Our Lord puts us on guard against this tendency today. If we seek the humblest spot we will see that he honors us beyond our expectations. We live this in every celebration of the Eucharist, which reminds us of the only place that matters: our place in Heaven. A place in the Lord’s heart is the most honorable place we have, which is why Our Lord invites us to have a place in our heart not just for those we know and love, but for everyone.

We’ve all been invited to the Heavenly banquet without earning it or deserving it. We’re poor (lacking the only currency of worth—love for our neighbor), crippled and lame (by not living our Christian life well), and blind (not seeing our own flaws and limitations). Despite all this misery, the Lord invites us and gives us a place of honor. Let’s thank Our Lord today for having saved us a place in his Heavenly banquet through his blood on the Cross. Let’s assure him that he’ll always be in first place in our hearts and strive to give this love to others.

Make an extra effort this week to put others first in gratitude to Our Lord for reserving you a place of honor in Heaven. Hold the door for someone entering or exiting. Offer to help carry parcels or groceries. Let someone else serve themselves first at the buffet (or make them lunch). Clear the table or do some other chore, even if it is not your turn.

Readings: Sirach 3:17–18, 20, 28–29; Psalm 68:4–7, 10–11; Hebrews 12:18–19, 22–24a; Luke 14:1, 7–14. See also 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C and 30th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday.