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Tuesday
Sep032019

Twenty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time - Deacon Bill Finnegan

The theme for today’s readings, at least the reading from Sirach and Luke’s Gospel, is Humility.  That can be seen in the very first line of the first reading and in the parable spoken by Jesus in the Gospel.

 I can’t help it but every three years when these readings come around, the song from Mac Davis pops into my head and won’t go away.  It makes it difficult to write a homily, when all you can think of is, “Lord, it’s hard to be humble, when you’re perfect in every way.”  The song is from 1980, so most of you have never even heard of it.  (You may want to google it.)  This year I have a different take on the not-so-humble lyrics of the country song.

 I’ve always looked at as a braggadocios song by whomever was singing it - bragging to God about how perfect that person was - thus singing, “Lord, it’s hard [for me] to be humble, when [I am] perfect in every way.”  This year, however, it struck me that perhaps this is really a song of praise for the perfection of God, the Son.  Listen to the words with this new interpretation in mind (and I guess I should be singing them to you), “Lord, it’s hard [for You, Lord] to be humble, when YOU LORD ARE perfect in every way.”

 It is Jesus who is perfect in every way, as we all believe.  Thus the singer is saying that it therefore must be hard for Jesus to be humble.  But we know the opposite to be true.  Jesus, in all His perfection, is also the epitome of humility.  Consider St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, chapter 2, where we read:

Rather, He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave,

coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance,

He humbled himself, becoming obedient to death,

even death on a cross.

 The Crucifix, those “two interesting pieces of wood” that I preached about a month ago, and the other Deacon Bill referenced two weeks ago, that Crucifix is the ultimate symbol of humility.  How can we gaze on Christ, Crucified, with any arrogance in our hearts?

The first reading begins with the words, “My child, conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts.”  Everybody loves “giver of gifts”, and to be loved more than that is special.  The Book of Sirach, which is not in the Protestant Bible, is also known as the Wisdom of Sirach, and this is an example of such wisdom.  The reading continues, “Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God.”  Again, a great piece of wisdom and a great promise.  This is a tough one, however, because if you are thinking that you are so great, the harder it will be to be humble, but that is what you are called upon to be.  On Catholic radio I heard, “If you think you are not conceited, then you really are.”  And I should confess here, humility is not my strong suit.  So the wisdom of Ben Sira, the author, is aimed directly at me - and maybe some of you.

A commentary on the Gospel of Luke indicates that whenever Jesus is interacting with the Pharisees, there is going to be trouble.  Additionally when Jesus is doing something on the Sabbath, or preaching about the Sabbath, there is going to be trouble.  Today we have Jesus not only interacting with the Pharisees, but dining on the Sabbath in the home of a leading Pharisee - looks like big trouble can be expected.

When Jesus arrived at the Pharisee’s home, presumably alone - without any of his followers - the reading says the other guests, more pharisees and lawyers, were “observing Him carefully”.  They want to see what He will do on the Sabbath, that they can hold against Him.  The reading implies that Jesus was also watching them very closely and noticing how filled up with himself each of them was as they all sought the places of honor at the table.  The trouble, that I mentioned, comes when Jesus chastises each of the guests, by way of a parable, for their lack of humility.  Jesus would have no such problem in your typical Catholic Church on the Sabbath = Sunday.  Catholics tend to fill up the church from the back, but not necessarily out of humility.

I came across an interesting instruction from The Didascalia of the Apostles, a document from the 3rd Century, concerning a person’s place in the congregation.  It states:

As regards the deacons, let one of them stand continually near the offerings for the Eucharist, and let another stand outside near the door and pay attention to those

who enter.  …  If anyone finds himself in a place not his own, let the deacon who

is inside take him, make him get up, and lead him to his proper place.

This, of course, is no longer the practice.  Can you imagine Deacon Bill & I coming down and rearranging everybody according to their importance?  In some sense, the real message of today’s readings is that no one is more important than anyone else here at the at the Table of the Lord.  In all humility, we are all equal before God.  So I repeat my question, “How can we gaze on Christ, Crucified, with any arrogance in our hearts?”  We are called to be humble before the Lord Jesus, just as He was humble before His/Our Father, so that we too may find favor before God.  “Lord, it is hard to be humble”, but that Lord is what You expect each of us to be, everyday.  This week, and for as long as the words of the song stay on your mind, I ask that each of you Pray for the Gift of Humility as you strive to be prefect in every way.

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