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I dont know if you have ever noticed in the Gospels just how

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I dont know if you have ever noticed in the Gospels just how Powered By Docstoc
					Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Notre Dame Homily 09/02/07 Twenty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time Cycle C

Reading I: Sirach 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. Reading II: Hebrews 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: 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 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.” +++ I preside over a fair number of weddings here in the Basilica. And, of course, I‟m usually invited to the wedding banquet following. I never know where I‟ll be sitting until I arrive at the banquet hall and pick up that little card with my name on it and a number I can barely read in the upper right-hand corner. Then begins the hunt, looking for the assigned table. Where might it be? Near the head table? At a parents‟ table? Someplace else? Perhaps at the table where the groom‟s 80 year-old aunt who is a nun is sitting? It could be anywhere!

I once heard a story about a man who would often comment to those sitting near him at wedding banquets that he obviously was favored by the newly married couple because they invariably seated him close to the bathroom. This would usually bring a laugh from his table companions. The laughing would only encourage him. He would then present a mock economic analysis which argued that, as far as seating placements were concerned, waterfront property was always the most valuable. The last place he would want to be, he would continue, was near the head table where you were in full sight, where people could watch you try to push that tiny little green pea on your knife with your index finger. The newlyweds obviously picked such guests out for public humiliation. Meals, especially wedding banquets, were big events in the time of Jesus. They were surrounded and imbedded with strict conventions. Normally you would invite only people of equal social rank to come to your home. You could invite someone of a slightly higher social rank, and if that person accepted, everyone would think you had taken a “step up” in rank. If you accepted a person‟s invitation, you were expected to return the invitation. Not to do so would be considered a terrible insult. On the other hand, if your important guest reciprocated, you “had arrived.” Where people sat in the time of Jesus was also an important decision. How closely a person was seated near the host revealed how the host perceived you. To be invited was already an honor, but once you arrived, where you were seated established yet another social rank. We do the same thing, of course, at weddings, even to this day. The parable Jesus tells in today‟s Gospel teaches us that those who exalt themselves, those who seek places of honor in this world, will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. Being humble doesn‟t get a lot of attention these days. The exalted are those who boast of their power, their fame, their wealth or their athletic ability. Who doesn‟t want to be number one, especially here at ND? When was the last time you heard a homily about humility? Part of the reason for this is that humility was often misused and misunderstood in the past. It was misused as a way of keeping those at the bottom from challenging the power of those at the top. It was misunderstood as meaning that we should all be doormats to our oppressors or superiors. And it led many to internalize a very negative self-image. Both of these distortions have given humility a bad image, but, Jesus says, it is a virtue and one we certainly need today. So, what is humility? True humility is not of the “Aw shucks” variety. Humility is not false modesty. True humility means accepting our limits and having a true sense of self. “Being humble” is not an excuse for refusing to do certain things because we‟re either too lazy, too selfcentered, or too fearful to do things. The truly humble accept their limitations, but accept them with the knowledge that some limitations can – and should – be overcome. The first three steps of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous offer us insight into understanding true Christian humility. Step1: “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.” A real disciple of Jesus Christ will acknowledge how powerless he or she is over many things in life. To acknowledge that we are not all-powerful, all knowing, or all-important is the beginning of humility. It leads to Step 2: “We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” In this step we acknowledge that God is in charge and that God must be in charge of our lives. In our Christian spiritual language, we call this “surrender.” And Step 3: “We made a decision to turn our will and our

lives over to the care of God as we understood him.” We must put God first. These three steps of AA are really about the humility that should guide our lives. The culture of Jesus‟ day, as well as ours, demanded that a person get ahead at all costs. Climbing the social ladder, gaining fame and honor, these were the things to be admired. Jesus clearly calls us in a different direction when we find ourselves giving a banquet. In letting God be God in our lives, in surrendering our will to his, we find a different kind of prestige. We find prestige bestowed by God who will “invite us up,” not to a higher place at a wedding banquet, but to his altar table every Sunday after Sunday. And in return, we are called to invite Jesus, our host, into our home, into our lives, especially as he comes to us in the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. We must be careful who we exclude, for we do not want to refuse or reject our host at this altar table. Rev. Peter D. Rocca, C.S.C. September 2, 2007 +++ I don‟t know if you have ever noticed in the Gospels just how often our Savior, Jesus Christ, preached about eating and drinking, about banquets and dinners, and how very frequently he used the occasion of being invited to a meal as an opportunity to teach about the Kingdom of God. This is particularly obvious in the Gospel of Luke, where there at least one reference to food or to meals in every single chapter. One commentator has noticed, perhaps only jokingly, that in Luke‟s Gospel whenever Jesus is teaching he probably had his mouth full of matzo balls. In today‟s Gospel from Luke, Jesus is invited to share a Sabbath dinner at the home of the leading Pharisees. In the culture of those days, an invitation to dinner was an especially important means of preserving or even enhancing one‟s place in society. At a formal meal, in the society of the Roman Empire, guests normally reclined on couches, propped-up on cushions. You always ate with your right hand and supported your head with your left hand. Normally, there would be at least three couches and these were large enough to comfortably hold at least three diners on the same couch, placed in a semi-circle around an arrangement of small tables. The host always reclined at the top of the couch on the left side of the room, so that his head could face the most important guest who occupied the couch on the back wall of the room on the side nearest the host. Slightly less favored quests shared the couch with the most favored quests. Even less favored guests shared the couch with the host, while the couch opposite was reserved for the least favorite. As the guests entered the dining room they were immediately and literally put in their places. The pecking order of where you took your place and whose couch you shared demonstrated for all to see who you were and how important or unimportant you were in the judgment of your host and in the estimation of the other guests. It would be a singular honor to be invited to take a higher place, but it would be a huge disgrace, and very embarrassing, to be told to give up your place to someone less important. In the Holy Land, in those days, a meal could also be very public, with a room used for dining open to the street and where the neighbors and all those uninvited could stand outside and watch the spectacle inside. Remember the beggar, Lazarus, watching from the street the sumptuous, daily feasting of the rich man, Dives. Remember the sinful woman who walked right in from the street to anoint the Lord‟s feet with her tears and precious chrism and then dry them with her hair. Today‟s Gospel reports that on this occasion the people were watching Jesus very carefully. Imagine the drama with all eyes fixed on the Lord, no doubt waiting to see

where the leading Pharisee would place this radical rabbi and how the Pharisees would react either to honor or dishonor. Well, as usual, Jesus does exactly the opposite of what was expected of him. Totally unconcerned about human pride or social opinion, Jesus uses this very public moment to recommend personal humility. Rather like that other Jesus, Jesus of Sirach, the ancient sage of Israel, who teaches us in the first reading, “My child, conduct your affairs with humility and you will be loved more that a giver of gifts.” Jesus of Nazareth, in today‟s Gospel, in his own words teaches a similar lesson. “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” Jesus goes on to give a further teaching, which must have sounded almost crazy, perhaps even scandalous to those who first heard it. In the ancient world formal dining always involved reciprocal relationships. There was a certain sense of even a moral obligation between a host and a guest who dined together. Of course, you normally ate with family and friends, but sharing a meal with carefully invited guests was also a singular opportunity to increase your circle of expanding connections and social influence. But Jesus says, “When you are having a banquet, don‟t invite your own family and friends. Do not invite the rich and the famous. Do not invite anyone who might be able to return your hospitality. Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind, those who are in no position to repay your generosity. Then it will be Almighty God who will reward your goodness in his everlasting Kingdom at the resurrection of the dead at the last judgment.” As with all of the sayings of Jesus, the Lord is saying much more than what we might first imagine. Certainly, Jesus – in conformity with law and the prophets – taught that everyone who belongs to God should attend to the needs of the poor and the sick. But this intentionally startling teaching reverses social and religious propriety. Jesus is proclaiming something new about the reign of God and about the banquet of the Kingdom. The kingdom of Heaven is not like the accepted social world, either of ancient Israel or ancient Rome, or for that matter like the social pecking order of America in the twenty-first century. Jesus is not forbidding the enjoyment of good food with our nearest and dearest, our family and friends, but he is challenging all of us to broaden our thinking about who is our family and about being ready to expand our love. God sent his Son into this world to heal what was broken, to reach out to sinners and bring them home to their Father‟s house and even to eat and drink with those who were once despised and excluded. God‟s love and mercy are freely and abundantly offered to all, even the outcasts. If we want God to be our Father, and if we hope to find a place at his heavenly banquet, we must become brothers and sisters to the entire world. Perhaps those that are well-placed may already think of themselves as being holy and righteous and perhaps not really hungry enough to accept God‟s invitation to incomparable goodness and the amazing grace of the banquet of heaven. On the other hand, many thought to be sinners, indeed, many of us who have sinned are the folks that can rejoice. Hear the good news: These are the folks happy to confess their sins and who welcome the gift of forgiveness and now take the very best places at the banquet of the Kingdom. The announcement of the reign of God is good news to the last, to the least, to the lost and to the little. Because in the reign of God many of the last will be first and many of those who think of themselves first will end up being last. The Mass, which is the supper of the Lord, is the effective sign, the blessed sacrament of God‟s steadfast desire that we share the table and fellowship with him and with one another. God alone can perfectly read the human heart and God alone will judge who is first and who is last around his table. As we are taught in today‟s second reading, here we approach the true Mt. Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. Here at Mass, we are already with

countless angels, ten thousand upon ten thousand in festal gathering; all the worshiping company of the cherubim with their many eyes and the fiery cherubim with their all concealing wings and the assembly of the saints, the first-born of all those enrolled in heaven. Here God is acknowledged as the Lord of the feast, the judge of the living and of the spirits of those made perfect. Here, Jesus Christ is both the atoning sacrifice and the high priest, the mediator of a new covenant and of a new familial relationship between God and his people. The Lord‟s sprinkled blood once offered on the altar of the cross washes away our sins and grafts us into God. The table is richly set. The invitation goes out to all. In this Assembly of God‟s people, at this holy meal, the food and drink are the precious body and blood of our resurrected Savior. Nothing greater can be spoken. Nothing more wondrous can be imagined. Nothing richer can be tasted. Nothing more satisfying can be known. So let us all now respond to God‟s generous invitation and eat and drink and at last be fully satisfied, both now and forever. Most Rev. Daniel R. Jenky, C.S.C. Bishop of the Diocese of Peoria September 2, 2007 +++

I just wanted to begin with one little word about all these signs across the campus for Father Basil Moreau. The Jesuits have about 10 million saints and the Franciscans have 20 million. Holy Cross doesn‟t have any, but we are on our way with two. We have blessed Brother André and a week from Saturday, our founder, Father Moreau, will be beatified in Le Mans, France where the congregation was founded. So for us this is a big occasion and our Superior General has called upon us to celebrate with a year of grace and rejoicing. We are truly very grateful to God for this blessing bestowed upon our congregation. Today‟s readings urge us to think about the virtue of humility. In our culture and in our society, humility is not often mentioned as something we should seek. It strikes us as a word filled with all sorts of different connotations. A humble person is not appreciated in our society, not looked upon as a strong man or strong woman – unless they happen to be someone like Mother Teresa or Pope John Paul II, who are recognized as exceptions to the rule. To be humble is somehow to have missed the boat in terms of our American dream. Yet today‟s Gospel says that we are not to look upon the virtue of humility as the equivalent of meekness or mildness or submissiveness, but rather as a characteristic that marks us out as disciples and friends, not only of Jesus Christ, but also of all of those in need of our love and our service, those who live at the margins of our society and those who have no means to repay debts. It‟s not just kindness on our part, or charity, but something due to them as brothers and sisters in Christ, in justice. Humility, the Book of Sirach tells us this morning, is the basis for wisdom. The wise person is a humble person and humility is a sure and solid foundation for the Christian life. It is the attitude of attentiveness to the presence of God in our lives, every day of our lives. I think there are three ways of understanding humility as a source of spiritual strength and as a foundation of our holiness. First, humility grounds us in the truth about who God is as our creator and who we are as his people. Secondly, it helps us to understand who we are in terms of God‟s plan for each one of us and the role God wants us to play in life. And finally, humility

directly relates to our relationship to other people and to our responsibilities as faithful, motivated citizens of our country, our society and our culture. From the very first days that God revealed himself to the chosen people up until our days, to “walk humbly with God” is the image we use to describe a right relationship between God and each one of us. We are called to become more and more aware of our dependence on God and on one another, and not on our independence or on self-sufficiency. Now, as we look at our Christian models of virtue, Mary is the person that most clearly stands out in our religious tradition as a marvelous example of humility. She was a simple person, but she collaborated fully with God‟s plan for her life and as the result she became the mother of Jesus Christ. She changed our human history and each one of our lives forever. Like all parents, like many of you, Mary was the first teacher in the faith of Jesus. She was the first disciple of Jesus. She was the first one to believe in him. And of course, she was one of just a handful of people who stood at the foot of the cross as Jesus died. So she‟s a woman who is significant in every single way. To be open to the splendor of God in our lives is to understand that deep in each one of us is a spiritual thirst that only God can quench. God can only quench it if we are open to the action of God in our lives. God can only quench that thirst if we are open to a relationship with all people and especially, as Jesus reminds us in the closing words in today‟s Gospel, the poor, foreigners, those who live at the margins of our society, those who have no way of repaying us. Humility enables us to understand ourselves well and to understand our potential as believers as men and women of faith. If we are humble as Mary was and open to God‟s will in our lives, then we will understand more fully how we can become holy men and women, as God calls us to be holy, and not be afraid of holiness. Just as importantly, we share with all men and women the fact that they are our brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. Each one of them, like each one of us, has been called to life by God and has been redeemed and forgiven by God and invited to share with God and with each other a place reserved for us in God‟s kingdom. One of our priests became a bishop in East Africa, in Uganda. After he was too old to be a bishop any more he went and did all sorts of wonderful things. His name is Vincent McCauley, and he too is a Servant of God. Every day, people would line up outside of his office and he would give whatever money he had to all of the people in line. His friends would say to him, “Bishop, they are taking you for a fool. They don‟t need money; they are taking advantage of you. Why don‟t you tell them to go away, to get a job, to disappear?” Bishop McCauley would say, “I would rather be fooled by 99 people than run into the one person who I refused to help, standing at the gate of Heaven, right next to Saint Peter.” I think that‟s a pretty good way to approach our lives as well. We have so many ways in which we can be counter-cultural as we look at our calling to be disciples of Jesus. We can be defenders of life at every stage. We can be men and women that put into practice the Christian sexual ethic, who reject easy ways and easy relationships. Because if we believe that we should be pure in our relationships with other people, we‟re not being silly, or out of it, we are being disciples of Jesus Christ. We have to oppose the death penalty, which is losing favor in our country these days. Not because we don‟t have a great compassion for the victims or an appreciation for the horrible things these people have done, but because as Cardinal Bernardin reminded us so many years ago, all life issues are tied together closely. We can‟t choose one and reject the other without our whole ethic of life unraveling and falling apart.

So my friends, the law of God is that we are to follow the love of God and share that love with each other; certainly with family and friends, but also with all people. We are to share our talents, our money, and our time with all those who are most in need of our help at any given moment and at every moment. May we humbly walk with God. May we make ourselves available to all people, without awaiting anything in return. And like Jesus, may we be friends of the weak, the poor, the disinherited, the outcasts of society, strangers, and immigrants in our midst. May we use our gifts to draw others and ourselves to God. Rev. Richard V. Warner, C.S.C. September 2, 2007

To subscribe to Reflections on Scripture, homilies given at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart during the academic year, please write to: Reflections on Scripture 319 Coleman-Morse Center Notre Dame, IN 46556 574.631.7800 / kgammon@nd.edu


				
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