2013-09-01, 22nd C, Who’s Poor?

Homily 09-01-13
22nd Sunday Ordinary Time C
Sir 3:17-18, 20, 28-29; Ps 68:4-5, 6-7, 10-11; Heb 12:18-19, 22-24a; Lk 14:1, 7-14

(Scriptures included after homily)

Jesus very often spoke about “the poor.”  And we usually consider ourselves as being on the other side of that “poverty line.”  We are the ones who are asked to offer our help to “them.”  And yet, in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus says, “Blessed are you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours.” (Lk 6:20)

It just might make us wonder . . .  “Who are we to be helping them?  Maybe they should be helping us, if we really are the ones on the other side of that “poverty line,” because  they’re the ones in the Kingdom.”  But then again, maybe we’re really not quite as well-off as we think.  Maybe it’s really us who are the “poor ones”!

It all gets down to that main theme of today’s readings, “Humility.”  You see, the wisdom writer of the Book of Sirach advised his readers “to conduct their affairs with humility.” And Jesus himself tells the Pharisee’s dinner guests that, “the one who humbles himself will be exalted.

Which prompts the question:
Just what is humility?

Is humility, what we are, when we’re all dressed up, pretty or handsome, and a car splashes mud all over us?  No.  We might be humiliated or embarrassed, but we’re not being humble.  As a matter of fact, our pride just might make us pretty mad about the whole thing.

Then, is humility sitting in the back of the banquet, for the sole purpose of  getting moved up to the front?  No.  That’s just a subtle form of ‘deceptive pride‘.  And we’re deceiving ourselves if we think that’s humility.

Well then, is humility giving up our clothes, like St. Francis, or going on a mission trip to Haiti, or putting $10.00 in the St. Vincent de Paul basket, all SO that we can feel good about how giving, how humble we are?  So that our pictures can be posted on Facebook, and our names carved on a bronze plaque?  No.  That too, is just another very subtle form of deceptive pride.  You see, if it was done for us, in any way, then it’s not humility!

So what, then, is humility?

Well, let’s look at it in the form of a Riddle.
“What is it: that if we say we have it, we don’t really have it at all?”
It’s Humility.

And, “What is it: that if we grasp for it, we can never quite reach it, because our own reasons for wanting it, prevent us from ever having it?”
It’s Humility.

And, “What is it: that if other people say we have it, and we don’t even know it ourselves, then we definitely have it?
It’s Humility.

Humility is not something we can BE,
it’s WHO we are!

Humility is being who we are, with no pretense or mask, no ulterior motive or hidden agenda, and NO concern for what others think of us, WHEN, who we are – is someone who loves others more than ourselves!

If we want to be a humble person, we don’t strive for humility, we strive to love beyond ourselves.  And in doing that, we empty ourselves of the “ME,” in order to live for others.  We give, because we love and we care.  And that love drives us to live simply like St. Francis, to give generously from the wealth of the time and treasure that God has given us, and to even risk our own safety as Jesus did, to help the poor, both at home and in places, like Haiti.

Which brings us back to that subject of “the poor.”  Remember, it’s the poor who are blessed with the Kingdom of God.  If we were to ask our parents, or our spouses, or our neighbors if they thought we were “humble,” what would they say?  And yet, if I were to ask you, if you thought “the poor” were humble?  What would you say?  I would say that, in general, they are.  And why?  Because through their poverty, they have come to recognize their dependence upon other people for their very lives.

When we can come to recognize our dependence on others, and especially on God, then we’re just beginning to enter that realm of humility.  Then we are truly beginning to recognize our own poverty.

Maybe I’m poor in self-control or anger.  Maybe I’m poor in forgiveness or reconciliation with people who have hurt me, or whom I have hurt.  Maybe I’m poor with judging and condemning others whom I may not even know.  Or maybe I’m just poor in love and kindness.

You see, in many ways, we really are poor!

And these poverties are not always easy to overcome.  Most of the time, we may not even recognize them in ourselves.  But deep inside, they truly hurt.

When we begin to recognize our own poverty, then it’s time for us to again remember what Jesus said, “Blessed are we who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is ours” (author’s paraphrase).  And the reason for this blessedness, is that we have an Advocate, a Helper – in Jesus.  We have the Holy Spirit for guidance and the saints as examples, because they’ve been there too.

And with a support system like that, we know that our poverties CAN be overcome.  We know that we have a Loving God who has given us ALL that we have, and ALL that we are.  And we know that God will continue to give us ALL that we need, in our poverty, and in our humility, as He invites us to His Banquet and His Kingdom, now and forever.

And for that, in ‘humble praise,’ we thank Him,
the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Amen.

jmp 09-01-13
(Cute video at end)
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Scripture Readings for the Mass of 09-01-13
Twenty-second Sunday, Ordinary Time C

First Reading: Sir 3:17-18, 20, 28-29

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.

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 68:4-5, 6-7, 10-11

R. God, in your goodness, you have made a home for the poor.
The just rejoice and exult before God; they are glad and rejoice. Sing to God, chant praise to his name; whose name is the LORD.
R.
The father of orphans and the defender of widows is God in his holy dwelling. God gives a home to the forsaken; he leads forth prisoners to prosperity.
R.
A bountiful rain you showered down, O God, upon your inheritance; you restored the land when it languished; your flock settled in it; in your goodness, O God, you provided it for the needy.
R.

Second Reading: Heb 12:18-19, 22-24a

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.

Gospel: Lk 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 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.”

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