Our lesson this weekend, as we continue to journey with Jesus to Jerusalem, is how to be humble. Our first reading tells us “to conduct our affairs with humility” and that we find favor with God when we humble ourselves. In the Gospel, Jesus uses two parables to underscore that “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
These passages are not talking about “being humble” as we commonly use it in the sense of being put down or embarrassed. HUMILITY comes from the Latin word humus which means EARTH. Humility means to have your feet on the ground, to be in touch with reality. Being humble, in the biblical sense, means recognizing the gifts you have, but knowing that they came from God.
Once we truly recognize that all we are and have are gifts from God, two things flow from this realization: first, I have no right to elevate myself over others, to feel superior to others, just because God chose to give me more. Second, these gifts are given to me to be used for others. Remember the rich man and Lazarus? The rich man did nothing wrong like fraud, cheating, etc., as far as we know; his failure was using God’s gifts only for himself, ignoring those in need. Jesus emphasizes this in our Gospel this weekend by telling us to invite those to our table who cannot repay us. We need to use the gifts of time, talent, and treasure that we have been given in a generous way, especially to help the needy, who cannot repay us.
I invite us to reflect this weekend on the many gifts that God has given us, asking ourselves how well we do at using these gifts, not only for ourselves and our loved ones, but also to help others. God has been very generous with us; how generous are we with others?
Church sign of the week: The reason you have two hands: one to help yourself, one to help others.
Our Gospel reading this weekend has two warnings for those of us who consider ourselves religious, that is, practicing our religion.
The first warning is that we must “strive to enter by the narrow gate.” The word used for “strive” means “struggle with all your strength.” To make sure that we understand that He means we must be struggling with all our strength to truly live Gospel values, Jesus adds the story of those who are locked outside complaining that they ate and drank with the master, but the master declares “I do not know you.” In other words, going to Mass (eating and drinking) and performing religious rituals will not get us through the narrow gate. They are critical supports, but we must be living a life of love of God shown through love of neighbor. Otherwise, we are deluding ourselves.
Second, we can feel “holier than thou,” believing we are better than others, that we will be saved and they will not. Jesus warns about this by saying people will come from all directions to sit at the table in the Kingdom of God, while those locked out, mentioned above, are wailing and grinding their teeth. We need to be careful not to put
ourselves in and others out.
The bottom line is that we have to focus on our lives and not be judging and excluding others. And we have to make sure that we have the same focus that God has: showing our true love of God through love of neighbor. We need to share the time, talent, and treasure that God has freely blessed us with. We need to be compassionate and forgiving to those who have harmed us. We need to ask pardon when we have harmed others. We don’t need to be first. We don’t need to judge others. And so on.
It is a struggle to enter by the narrow gate, to live Gospel values. But we have been given Jesus as an example, we have been given the scriptures, we have been given the Eucharist as food to strengthen us, we have been given the other sacraments, we have been given the community to support us. It is important to use all these gifts, but not as ends in themselves. The ultimate question is how we lived the law of LOVE. How am I doing? God bless.
Church sign of the week: God’s way is the high way.
It is not easy to live our faith. There are a number of challenges, both from within and from without.
From within: we are wired to think of ourselves, to provide for ourselves and for those we love. It is a challenge for us to be aware of and help those in need. Also, we want to be comfortable, we want to feel pleasure, we want everything to be easy. It is a challenge to control these drives.
From without: our culture encourages us to get more and more. We are told our self-worth is measured by what we have. Often we can be made fun of or ostracized when we try to live Gospel values, because we are making others uncomfortable. It is not easy.
In our first reading, Jeremiah suffers for repeating what the Lord told him to say. In the reading from Hebrews, the early Jewish Christians, who were ostracized (cut off from family, friends, and not allowed in the synagogue), are told their sufferings are nothing compared to what Jesus endured for them. And in the Gospel, Jesus warns that living Gospel values will bring stark divisions, even in families.
Following the example of Jesus and living Gospel values is not easy. James and John wanted to be first in the kingdom, but they didn’t realize what would be involved. We probably will not be called to suffer as did James and John, but there certainly are challenges to living as a disciple, challenges from within and without.
How strong is my commitment? Am I willing to go out of myself to serve others? We can get all the support we need to do so by taking quiet time with the Lord each day, as well as by making use of His Word, the Eucharist, and the community. We get all three at once when we come to Mass: that is why it is so important to make weekend Mass attendance a high priority, both for ourselves and for those we will support by our presence. I urge you to do so.
May God bless us as we strive to be active disciples.
Church sign of the week: Christianity doesn’t guarantee a smooth flight, but it does provide a safe landing.
There is no doubt that there are a number of serious problems facing us: mass killings, climate change, inflation, illnesses, war in Ukraine, etc. Most disturbing is the animosity between the political parties that makes it very difficult to address any issues. It is easy to feel very discouraged and pessimistic, concluding that there is nothing we can do.
All three of our readings this weekend remind us that God is in control, that God loves and cares for us, and that, ultimately, all will be OK. We just have to do our part to bring about His Kingdom, as we wait for its fullness.
Our first reading tells us that the Israelites had faith in the Lord and thus had the courage to escape Egypt and head out into the desert. Our second reading extolls the faith of Abraham, a faith that enabled him to take incredible risks because he trusted that God would be true to His word.
Jesus says it clearly in our Gospel reading: Do not be afraid any longer, little flock. But he then says that we must be acting in such a way that we are helping to bring about the Kingdom by the way we live. He sums it up as “selling what you have and giving alms” so as to “build up inexhaustible treasure in heaven.” In other words, we have to be actively involved in bringing about the kind of world that God wants. We need to do our best to help others in need, to bring peace and unity where there is division, to comfort those who are suffering, and so on. As we do these things, we are helping to bring about the Kingdom we are waiting for. We have to be involved, allowing the Lord to use us as His instrument. How am I doing?
Church sign of the week: When we have nothing left but God, we discover God is enough.