Gospel according to Luke (14:1, 7-14)
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 the 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.”
Today’s First Reading and Gospel focus our reflections on humility. They also remind us of that popular biblical passage from the prophet Micah (6:8): “This is what Yahweh asks of you: only this, to act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with your God.” Personally, I recall and treasure the quote, since it was our chosen “class motto” while we were in the seminary preparing to be missionaries.
Many people may have a mistaken notion about “Christian humility.” It is not centered on thinking low of yourself or even denying your true worth, gifts, and talents. We readily accept that we are weak and sinful individuals, yet we always remain beloved creatures fashioned in God’s own image (Gn 1:26-27). Authentic humility is based on the recognition and thankful awareness that all the virtues we have originate in God’s love and grace. In addition, even if we fall into sin, authentic humility requires us to honestly acknowledge our faults and accept our need for God’s forgiveness.
Then, renewed by God’s grace, we strive to continue to offer genuine love and humble service to our neighbors.
Mary as Model. Christians can look to Mary as a shining example of humility, for even when she is told by the angel that she had been chosen to be the Mother of the Messiah – the very Son of God – she referred to herself as the mere “handmaid of the Lord” (Lk 138). It is noteworthy that the word “handmaid” in the original New Testament Greek is doula, which literally means “slave.” Such was Mary’s humility; she put her life totally at God’s disposal.
Mary’s humility shines out further as she gives all glory and praise to God for the privileges she has received. She declares in her Magnificat (Lk 1:46-49): “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in God my savior; because he has looked upon his lowly (slave). From this day forward all generations will call me blessed, for the Almighty has done great things for me.”
Reflection of John Paul II. In his homily for the fiftieth anniversary of Pope Pius XII’s definition of the dogma of Mary’s assumption into heaven (November 1,1950-2000), St. John Paul II noted that in her Magnificat, “Mary shows what constituted the foundation of her holiness: deep humility… Before the mystery of grace, the experience of a particular presence of God who has rested his gaze upon her, Mary feels a natural impulse of humility… It is the reaction of someone who is fully aware of her own littleness before the greatness of God.”
The Pope continues: “This humility of spirit, this complete submission in faith, is particularly expressed in her ‘fiat’: ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.”’ TruIy, “the greatness of the gift corresponds to the depth of humility.”
Conclusion. In its most profound and most beautiful sense, humility simply means to strive to be like Jesus, Mary, the saints, and many other ordinary Christians whom we personally know. We seek to imitate Jesus, who said: “Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of hearts.” (Mt 11:29) Humility invites us to be like Jesus, who said: “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve.” (Mk 10:45) It means to “walk humbly with your God.” (Mi 6:8) – Fr. James H. Kroeger, MM