The common theme of today’s readings is the need for true humility which leads to a generous
blessed sharing with the needy. The readings warn us against all forms of pride and self-
glorification. They present humility not only as a virtue but also as a means of opening our hearts,
our minds and our hands to the poor, the needy, the disadvantaged and the marginalized of society.
For Jesus, the daily human needs of the poor are the personal responsibility of every authentic,
humble believer. In addition, humility is the mother not only of peace, but also of many virtues, like
obedience, fear, reverence, patience, modesty, meekness and gentleness. The first reading, taken
from the book of Sirach, reminds us that if we are humble, we will find favor with God, and others
will love us.

The second reading, taken from Hebrews, gives another reason for us to be humble. Jesus, the
Incarnate Son of God humbled Himself, taking on human flesh and living our lives that he might die
to save us. He invites his followers to learn how to live from him because he is “meek and humble of
heart. Paul reminds us that Jesus was lowly, particularly in his suffering and death for our salvation
(Heb 2:5-18), so we should be like him that we may be exalted with him at the resurrection of the
righteous. Paul seems to imply that we have to follow Christ’s example of humility in our
relationships with the less fortunate members of our society. 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus explains the practical benefits of humility, connecting it with the common
wisdom about dining etiquette (see Prv 25:6-7; Sir 3:17-20). Jesus advises the guests to go to the
lowest place instead of seeking places of honor so that the host may give them the place they
deserve. Jesus’ words concerning the seating of guests at a wedding banquet should prompt us to
honor those whom others ignore, because if we are generous and just in our dealings with those in
need, we can be confident of the Lord’s blessings. On the other hand, if we act out of pride and
selfishness, we can be sure that our efforts will come to nothing.

Cardinal Léger’s option for the poor: Most Rev. Paul-Émile Léger served as Archbishop of
Montreal from 1950 to 1968, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1953 by Pope Pius XII. He was
one of the most powerful men in Canada and within the Catholic Church. He was a man of deep
conviction and humility. Then on April 20, 1968 he resigned his office and, leaving his red
vestments, crosier, miter, and pallium in his Montreal office, disappeared. Years later, he was found
living among the lepers and disabled, outcasts of a small African village. When a Canadian
journalist asked him, “Why?” here is what Cardinal Léger had to say: “It will be the great scandal of
the history of our century that 600 million people are eating well and living luxuriously and three
billion people starve, and every year millions of children are dying of hunger. I am too old to change
all that. The only thing I can do which makes sense is to be present. I must simply be in the midst of
them. So, just tell people in Canada that you met an old priest. I am a priest who is happy to be old
and still a priest and among those who suffer. I am happy to be here and to take them into my
heart.” Is that your calling? Is it mine? Probably not. Today’s Gospel says: “Although they cannot
repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” 

Instruction at a party:The reason why Jesus was invited to the Sabbath dinner of a party of a
prominent Pharisee was that he was already a sort of celebrity, noted for curing the sick. People are
always drawn toward celebrities. But Jesus was not interested in such fame. Without putting on an
air of superiority, he used the occasion to teach a lesson about the Kingdom, presenting humility as
the essential condition for God’s invitation to His Heavenly banquet. Humility must be expressed in
the recognition of one’s lowliness before God and one’s need for salvation. Based on his observation
of a gross breach of social etiquette at that party, Jesus taught those Jewish religious teachers what
genuine humility was and what the dangers of pride were. “Go and take the lowest place,” Jesus
recommends, “so that when the host comes to you he may say, `My friend, move up to a higher
position.’” In other words, we are always to situate ourselves in such a manner that the only way we
can go is up.

Humility and its importance: Humility has been seen as:”…not thinking less of yourself but
thinking of yourself less.” (C.S. Lewis). Others remind us that: “Pride makes us artificial, and
humility makes us real.” (Thomas Merton). However, a common theme in the definitions, is that:
“humility equals realism” In other words, humility involves measuring myself by Reality; it
involves relating myself realistically to God and others.” Humility is an attempt to try to see
ourselves as God sees us. The humble person knows his/her gifts and talents and is thankful to God
for them. Humility does not imply denying our gifts, or not sharing our talents with others. God
made us.  We, in turn, are thankful to God for those gifts, and show our thankfulness by using our
talents in service to one another. The word humility comes from the Latin word humus which means
“fertile soil.” In other words, to be humble is to be ready to accept who we are, especially with our
talents, abilities, limitations and weaknesses. Humility does not mean thinking less of ourselves. It
means living as Jesus lived – not for ourselves, but for others.

When God became man, He chose to occupy the lowest possible seat. Paul describes in Phil 2:7-8,
the six steps in humility that God took in coming to this earth. “Jesus 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.” Humility was Jesus’ favorite theme. “Everyone
who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke
14:11); “Whoever humbles himself like a little child is the greatest in the kingdom of God” (Matthew
18:4); “Learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart”(Matthew 11:29). Humility is a strange
phenomenon. As a rule, when we discover we have it, we lose it. Humility is like a rare flower —
put it on display, and it instantly wilts and loses its fragrance! St. Augustine said: “Humility is so
necessary for Christian perfection that among all the ways to reach perfection, humility is first,
humility is second, and humility is third.” He added, “Humility makes men angels, and pride makes
angels devils.” St. Bernard declared, “Pride sends man from the highest elevation to the lowest
abyss, but humility raises him from the lowest abyss to the highest elevation.”

Humility with a hook: Both pride and false humility are self-deceptions which blind us to this path.
Pride makes us self-centered and so full of our own importance that there is no place for God in our
lives. Here is a portion of one of Mother Teresa’s exhortations to her novices: “If I try to make
myself as small as I can, I’ll never become humble. It is humility with a hook. True humility is truth.
Humility comes when I stand as tall as I can, and look at all of my strengths, and the reality about
me, but put myself alongside Jesus Christ. And it’s there, when I humble myself before Him, and
realize the truth of who he is, when I accept God’s estimate of myself, stop being fooled about
myself and impressed with myself, that I begin to learn humility. The higher I am in grace, the lower
I should be in my own estimation because I am comparing myself with the Lord God.” Thus,
humility is an attempt to see ourselves as God sees us. It is also the acknowledgement that our
talents come from God who has seen it fit to work through us. Baron Rothschild once, when asked
about seating important guests, said, “Those that matter won’t mind where they sit, and those who
do mind, don’t matter.” In their efforts to encourage such humility at every level of the hierarchy of
the Church, Latin American theologians challenged believers to develop and foster “a preferential
option for the poor.” Jesus understood that the daily human needs of the poor are
the personal responsibility of every authentic humble believer.

Lesson in true humility: In today’s Gospel story, Jesus gives his host a lesson in humility. “When
you hold a banquet, don’t invite friends or relatives or wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite
you back and you have repayment. Rather invite the poor, the cripples, the lame, and the blind, who
are unable to repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” St Francis
expressed this attitude perfectly when he said: “What I am before God is what I am, and nothing
more.“ Thomas Carlyle, the British historian, put it succinctly, “Show me the man you honor, and I
will know what kind of man you are.” The Pharisees were preoccupied with “earning” a high place
in heaven. Jesus counsels them to practice what they preach about God’s concern for the poor and
thereby to gain true merit. In other words, Jesus suggests, “Do something really different! Invite to
your parties the people who have little to bring with them. The blessing, recognition and benefit you
are worried about will come, though not through the means you expect.” The freedom that comes
with knowing we are loved and sustained by God is a freedom to give generously of our resources,
to give the best place to others without concern for ourselves. Just as Jesus challenges his fellow
guests, so he challenges us. He warns us that those who will be saved will not be people like the
Pharisees. The deeper message of this parable is that if we exalt ourselves, we are going to face
embarrassment before the judgment seat of God, the Host who has invited us to the banquet of life.

1) We need to practice humility in personal and social life: Humility is grounded in a psychological
awareness that everything I have is a gift from God, and, therefore, I have no reason to boast. I must
not use these God-given gifts to elevate myself above others. Hence, humility means the proper
understanding of our own worth. It requires us neither to overestimate nor to underestimate our
worth. The humility that the Gospel urges upon us has nothing to do with a self-deprecation that
leaves a person without proper self-esteem. We must simply admit the truth about ourselves: we do
not know everything; we do not do everything correctly and we are all imperfect and sinners.
Nevertheless, we also recognize that we are made in the image and likeness of God and that we are
called to help build the kingdom of God with our God-given gifts. We are not of value because of
those gifts but because we are loved by God as His children, redeemed by the precious blood of His
son Jesus. The quality of humility that Jesus is talking about has a sociological dimension too. For
Jesus is inviting us to associate with the so-called “lower classes” of society — even the outcasts.
Jesus invites us to change our social patterns in such a way that we connect with the homeless, the
handicapped, the elderly, and the impoverished — the “street people” of the world –
with agápe love.

2) We need to remember that we are the invited guests: We celebrate that coming Banquet Feast in
Heaven every time we come together for Our Lord’s Supper in Holy Mass. We are the (spiritually)
poor, crippled, lame, and blind that Christ calls to himself. Our place is assured. Let us accept Jesus’
invitation by actively participating in this Eucharistic celebration. Thomas Merton, the Trappist
monk and writer, on receiving Holy Communion, writes that, as he received the Sacrament for the
first time, as an adult, he thought to himself: Heaven was entirely mine … Christ, hidden in the small
host, was giving himself for me and to me, and with himself the entire Godhead and Trinity … Christ
was born in me, his new Bethlehem, and sacrificed in me, his new Calvary, and risen in me … (God)
called out to me from his own immense depths [The Seven Storey Mountain, (New York: Doubleday
Image Books), pp. 273-274).] Thomas Merton sensed the wonder of God’s invitation to Communion
and received it joyfully. So, should we.

3) We need to become the guests of God and the hosts of everyone else: As God’s guests in this
world, we should act humbly and remember that we are always in the presence of Someone greater
than we are. As hosts of God’s people, we should offer hospitality to those who cannot reward us.
Surely, we do not have to leave out our friends and families. But neither should we leave out the
poor and disabled. We are asked to look upon ourselves as having received everything we are and
have, from its true source, God, and to acknowledge Him as the giver of all blessings. We should
choose the lowest place and never think of ourselves as better than anyone else, for all we are is due
to God’s grace. This is the way to form our hearts in humble gratitude and to live with that peace of
heart that only true Christian humility can bring us.

Have a wonderful Sunday. God Bless you. Fr. Michael Dias