Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time August 28, 2016
Responsorial Psalm Ps 68:4-5, 6-7, 10-11
- (cf. 11b) God, in your goodness, you have made a home for the poor. Reading 2 Heb 12:18-19, 22-24a
Alleluia Mt 11:29ab
Gospel Lk 14:1, 7-14
Homily— August 27 & 28, 2016
I would like to share with you a story in this week’s The Witness written by Mary Pedersen. On a Saturday morning, Mary and her friend Becky took their daughters for breakfast at a local restaurant in the Waterloo area. Standing outside was a familiar character, who often meandered the sidewalks of the strip mall nearby. He was a noticeably homeless man: stooped over, dark hair greased back, pop bottle glasses, tattered coat, and scuffed black shoes. Becky and Mary eyed each other, and then simultaneously invited the man to join them for breakfast. He refused repeatedly, but finally acquiesced to a cup of coffee and introduced himself as Charlie. What followed was one of the most interesting and meaningful table conversations—ever. As the girls gobbled syrup-saturated pancakes, he held his coffee cup while sharing hard-earned wisdom: He stated, “When I was ten years old, about your age girls, my father gave me my first drink. I had no idea what I was getting into, but I’ve been an alcoholic ever since I was twelve. It’s been a hard life: I flunked out of school; I couldn’t keep a job; I’ve never had a family of my own—all because of that very first drink. To have a good life, girls, stay away from alcohol.” Shortly after sharing his story, Charlie graciously thanked them and headed out.
In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus encourages His followers to invite those who cannot repay you. Here Mary and Becky were following the Gospel, thinking they were doing something for this poor man. In reality he gave them much more. Life had humbled Charlie and he became a sort of a sage, sharing his wisdom, as the girls listened with attentive ears. They were all humbled by Charlie’s life story—his struggle. They learned the true value of this man, who others perhaps saw as a bum or drunk. The dollar spent on a cup of coffee taught them priceless life lessons, especially the great worth of Charlie as a beloved child of God. Many of the lands Jesus walked had fallen under heavy Greek influence. The Pharisees and lawyers with whom Jesus ate would have been thus affected. In Hellenistic culture, humility was regarded as a vice. Ambition and effort to achieve higher spots in the public eye were expected and rewarded. True Jewish character, however still saw humility as a virtue. Jesus would have been aware of the words of Sirach we share today. In His mind, it is true humility that wins esteem.
The Book of Sirach is not included in the canon of scripture by either Protestants or Jews, this collection of wisdom sayings is found only in Catholic and Orthodox Bibles. It offers unique insight into the wisdom that would have been passed down through and beyond the time of Jesus. A part of humility is the understanding not only that we’re nor spiritual giants, but that we’re probably not really ready and willing to be as holy as our aspirations would have us be. St. Ignatius of Loyola’s suggestion is that if we cannot sincerely pray for a particular virtue, the next best thing is to pray for the grace to help us get there one day. Sometimes I know what I could have done or said better, after I reflect on a situation and realize that God wanted me to do more than I did.
Luke places great emphasis on the poor, and he defines the poor as being all outcasts regardless of income. The lame, the blind, those in anyway handicapped were forbidden to enter the Temple. Real humility is defined by offering hospitality to those who are not even allowed in the Temple, let alone wanted in our homes.
Christian humility calls us to be real ministers of hospitality. As you celebrate this Mass with me reflect on how welcoming you are to others around you who come to worship here. Do you acknowledge them, share a smile, get to know them? We are to make others great through our service to them. I hope everyone here feels welcome and knows their presence is appreciated.