Reflection for Sunday, August 29, 2004: 22nd week in Ordinary Time.

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Gillick, Larry, S.J.
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PRE-PRAYERING|| "The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing."|A friend reminded me of this recently. Our scripture readings today are dealing with keeping things in focus, in proportion, in view, in truth and all in relationship with God, who is the main thing. |We can pray with a desire to be gratefully receptive or in other words, humble about God's many blessings. We may have to pray about putting aside our personas, our pretenses and be freed to allow our persons to reveal the very person God is still creating. We pray to take our proper place at the marriage banquet of life. We pray for the grace to rejoice in our being invited to welcome fearlessly all God's invitations to eat what is put before us.| REFLECTION |We hear from another book from the section of Hebrew Scriptures known as Wisdom Literature. Ben Sirach or the Book of Ecclesiasticus, is compiled of hymns praising the Creator, poems celebrating Israel's history of being God's people, and many proverbial sayings affirming the blessings which flow from observing the Law of Moses.|The Church offers us a sample of verses which have a theme, but are not logically connected necessarily. The whole book seems to ramble through various human ways and temptations; all virtues preventing temptation and violation of God's Law. This whole third chapter centers around "parental guidance suggested." A father is explaining to his child how keeping the law is reverencing God and honoring the parents. These verses are extensions of the Commandment to honor one's parents. The general theme is that by being virtuous and humble, the child will be favored by others and by God and thereby bring honor and blessing to the child's parents who have raised the child according to God's Law. They have kept the Law by raising children who do the same by humbly observing the truth of God in one's life.|We hear a verse which is central to this form of humility. We are advised not to seek beyond what we can handle. Chapter 39 beginning with verse 15 of this book expands this thought. The Law contains enough, more than we need to understand life, God and all that God wants us to know about how to live these lives. It is a form of humility to accept what is revealed, ponder all that and many will be the blessings. This wisdom or humility urges acceptance of our human truth as children whom God teaches, leads, nourishes and asks for gratitude as a blessed response.|In the Gospel today, Jesus is invited to a leading Pharisee's house and all are watching him closely. What we don't hear in our reading is the curing of a man with dropsy on the Sabbath and right in the midst of the lawyers surrounding him in the Pharisee's very house. He turns to them and in so many words says, "What do you think of them apples?" They don't think much about "them apples" and say less. Then Luke continues with the verses of today's Gospel. Jesus tells them all a parable which at first hearing seems to be about the protocol of hosting a banquet. Jesus does not indulge in Advice-Column issues.|The image of banquet is well known to Jesus' table companions. He uses this at-hand object to offer one more view of the "kingdom of God" or his ways of holiness. It is a repetition of last-weeks Gospel's theme of the first's being last and the last's being first. God has invited some to the "banquet" and they have taken the first place at the table of life. Now remember who are listening to this parable and after the curing of the man on the Sabbath. They are becoming aware of what they were expecting to hear. Jesus is saying that the banquet has become a bit of a "scratch my back and I will scratch yours" religion affair. You be good to God and God will be good to you. Jesus is turning things over again and so turning to the person who invited him, Jesus gives him something new. The "kingdom" is a new banquet to which the poor, crippled, the lame and the blind are even now being invited. They will take the places of those invited first and those will face the embarrassing experience of being replaced. The repayment for including these new-comers will be at the resurrection of the righteous. It takes humility to be honest, or perhaps better, does it take honesty to be humble? |The real humility asked for in this reading is our acceptance of being invited even though we are poor, crippled, lame and blind in all their forms. We are invited to approach the tables of our lives as invited guests whose truth is more interior. Though we are blinded by our crippledness and poor because of our being lame, we are invited higher than we would be by our own natural personal negativity. We would expect less and we receive more. That takes humility. The self-righteous assume a higher place by their judgments of themselves based on perfect execution of the Law. Jesus invites those who are surprised that God's judgment of them is more compassionate than their own judgment of themselves. Perhaps true humility is this being delightfully surprise always. God then is not just. We do not receive what we deserve. We are invited higher, because we have been invited deeper.|"O Lord, how great is the depth of the kindness that you have shown to those who love you." Ps. 31, 20
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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