Twenty-second Sunday of Ordinary Time • Year C

Joseph S. Mostardi, O.S.A.
Church of Our Mother of Good Counsel
Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania

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

“For everyone self-exalting will be humbled. Everyone self-humbling will be exalted.” These are very powerful words spoken by Christ in today’s gospel. Given the fact that today is the 28th of August, we also commemorate the Feast of St. Augustine. I would not be a very good Augustinian if I did not incorporate Augustine’s comments on this Gospel as part of our reflection for this Sunday. We find similar words related to this passage from St. Luke, spoken by Augustine himself. He poses the question, “which is better pride or humility?” A question that is at the heart of the Gospel today and at the very core of St. Augustine’s theology.

His thoughts parallel the words of Christ not only regarding humility, but how we incorporate the virtue of humility in our lives, motivating our actions. When asked which virtue is the most important, Augustine would say humility. He would then go on to say that the next most important virtue is humility and again, the third most important virtue is humility. Jesus speaks of humility as the essence of the life of a disciple, for he humbled himself to be like us in all things but sin.

We must learn to be humble in a Christ-like manner. A model for all Christians, especially those of us who share in the charisms of an Augustinian community, parish or school. Our gospel depicts Jesus once again having a meal with those who have attempted to use their position in the community to find fault with Jesus. A typical human weakness even in our own times. How often do we hear from others or find ourselves in a situation that ends in controversy and conflict because we lack humility?

The political rhetoric that fills our newspapers and media are certainly self-serving, lacking in the virtue of humility and avoiding what could be an attempt at promoting the common good of all. Trying to get the lawyers and pharisees to think and act humbly would be contrary to the very nature of who they were and their status in the community. Jesus immediately embarrasses them by the logic of his thought causing them humiliation, which we know is the very opposite of humility.

Our individual call to discipleship is built on the ideals of humility in what we say and do. Augustine reminds us that pride interferes with our efforts to be humble. He once again poses a question. “I set before you pride and humility, can we possibly say, pride is good and humility better? No, but what do we say? Pride is bad and humility is good; pride is a great evil and humility is a great good.”

We are all called to join in a pilgrimage here on earth that invites us to empty ourselves of pride and selfishness so that we can find room in our hearts for God’s plan. The grace of humility opens our minds and hearts to a life of selfless desire to love as God loves and serve others as Christ served.

As we prepare to receive the Eucharist, we are called to do so with sincere humility allowing what we receive to remind us of what we become – the Body of Christ. When we find ourselves ready to move forward in procession to the altar to receive the Eucharist, we leave behind in the pew who we were when we first arrived for Mass, accepting the invitation to break bread with the Lord. We listen to his words of encouragement and then through the eyes of faith recognize him in the breaking of the bread. We then humbly return to our seats giving thanks for having been invited to break bread with Jesus at our sabbath meal.

We come to hear what God has to say to us in case we are burdened by discontent and selfishness, anger and pride, conflict and aggression. For if we approach the table of the Lord with burdens such as these we will leave without a sense of wholeness as did the lawyers and pharisees that confronted Jesus due to their lack of humility.

One more thing to take into consideration – this gospel is not designed for us Catholics to avoid sitting up front. We have been invited to take a place of honor at the Lord’s table because our baptism humbly extends that invitation to us. Like Jesus’s friend Mary, we have an opportunity to choose the better portion by sitting as close as we can to the Lord, being nourished by Word and Sacrament humbly returning to our daily routines ready to humbly accept the challenges of discipleship.