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The High Calling of Love
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37–40
Think about the many things you desire in life. What would make up that list? Perhaps there are many good things that would be included, such as a desire for strong family relationships, good health, a happy life, good friends, and financial security. Perhaps there are other things that would be included, such as success in an occupation, nice vacations, a new home, and fun adventures in life. If you were to make a list like this that began with your deepest desire, what would come first? We might all know what should come first, but if you were to honestly examine the desires of your heart right now, what would be on the top of that list?
Ideally, the first and greatest desire of our souls would be the two greatest commandments. Above all else you will desire to love God with all your heart, soul and mind and love your neighbor as yourself. Is that the deepest desire of your heart?
What’s important to note is that we ought not love God with most of our heart, soul and mind. We don’t just love Him with 51% and then allow ourselves to disseminate the other 49% to other loves. No, 100% of our love must go to God. God must be the single and exclusive object of our love.
If you were to give to God 100% of your love, what would you have left for others? The glorious nature of our love of God is such that the more love we offer to God, the more we have to give away to others. When we give our love to God, He does not take it away from us and keep it for Himself in a selfish way as if He is jealous and possessive. Instead, loving God transforms our ability to love in such a way that we have even more than we started with. We are limited creatures and we are limited in our ability to love. God is infinite and His love is infinite in nature. Therefore, when we give our limited love to God, we receive back from Him His infinite love. This love is then able to overflow from our lives and can be distributed without reserve.
So back to our original question: Do you love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind? If you do, then it means that every part of who you are is caught up in the mind and will of God. It means that you continuously seek to understand God and all that He has revealed to you. It means that you seek to comprehend His perfect will for you every day of your life. It means that you choose only that which God wills and that you do so with passion, zeal and fervor. It means that you are continuously attentive to God, respond to His gentle promptings of grace, and are led by Him every moment of every day of your life. That is a high calling! But it is the calling you have been given. Then, and only then, will you be loving yourself with the love of God by opening yourself to His outpouring of love, and only then will you be able to act as an instrument of God’s love to those around you.
Reflect, today, upon the high and definitive calling you have been given to love God with every fiber of your being. Your love must become all-consuming. It must be total and without hesitation. It will require the complete sacrifice of your life, the full purging of your sins, the denunciation of all selfishness and a heart that is open to the infinite power of God’s transforming touch. Because God commanded this, it is possible. It is possible to become a great saint. Shoot for nothing less. Never give up on this high calling, and know that it is the only way to the fulfillment in life that you deeply desire.
My loving Lord, You have given everything to me and ask for everything in return. Please help me to understand Your perfect love and to choose it with all my might. I do love You, dear Lord. Help me to love You with all that I am. Jesus, I trust in You.
I Want to See
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)
As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging. On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.” Mark 10:46–47
Imagine the humiliation you might experience if your only way to survive each day was to sit on the side of the road and beg. As a blind man at that time, Bartimaeus was not able to work and support himself. Many saw his blindness as a curse from God and the result of his sin or the sins of his parents. He would have been treated as an outcast of society and as a burden to his family and community. Thus, the mental and emotional trauma a blind person experienced at that time would have been just as difficult to deal with as the physical blindness itself.
The symbolism in this story is extraordinary and teaches us many things about our Christian journey. First, we must strive to identify with Bartimaeus’ humility and weakness. On a spiritual level, we are all blind and, in our fallen natural state, we are spiritual outcasts. This means that we cannot attain Heaven by ourselves. Bartimaeus is a symbol of our fallen natural state. We need to humble ourselves every day and see ourselves as people in dire need who are incapable of saving our own souls.
Bartimaeus is also a symbol of what we must do in order to be drawn out of the blindness and misery we experience in life. The moment he heard that Jesus was walking by, he cried out for mercy. But he didn’t just cry out to our Lord. He did so with perseverance. The people who heard him crying out rebuked him and told him to stop. But their rebukes only led him to be more fervent in his prayer. Also, it appears that Jesus ignored him at first. Why would Jesus do that? It certainly wasn’t because Jesus didn’t care. It was because our Lord knew that Bartimaeus would persevere and He wanted him to do so. Jesus wanted Bartimaeus’ prayer to become more resolute, and it did.
The prayer of Bartimaeus must become the way we pray. It is very easy to become discouraged in life and to lose hope. When that happens, our prayer becomes weak and ineffective. At times, we will experience many other temptations to give up on prayer. The rebukes by the crowd are a symbol of the many temptations we will experience to give up on prayer. When those temptations come, we must double our effort and strengthen our resolve. Jesus’ silence at first must also be seen as an invitation to pray with greater faith. If we pray and feel as though God is not listening, we must know that God does hear us and His initial silence is His way of inviting us closer and to a deeper level of faith and prayer.
When Jesus stopped and told the disciples to bring Bartimaeus to Him, Bartimaeus immediately got up, threw off his cloak and went to our Lord. His cloak is a symbol of everything we need to shed in life that keeps us from immediately and quickly responding to the promptings of grace. Though there is nothing wrong with having a cloak, in that moment it was a slight hindrance to his prompt response to Jesus. So also with us; we must be ready and willing to eliminate anything that keeps us from responding to God the moment He calls to us.
Finally, Bartimaeus’ prayer was perfect. “Master, I want to see.” Spiritually speaking, we must work to foster the deepest desire to see God, to see our Lord. If we desire the gift of faith, the ability to see spiritual truths and understand them, then our Lord will answer that prayer. Our Lord will also say to us, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.”
Reflect, today, upon this poor blind beggar, Bartimaeus. See in his humble soul a model of how you must see yourself and of how you must pray. Observe the humility of your fallen state, the isolation you experience from your sin, and the perseverance you need to have in prayer. Follow the example of Bartimaeus, and our Lord will remove the blindness of your heart so that you can follow Him more fully every day.
My healing Lord, by myself I am weak, a beggar and a sinner. My only hope is to cry out to You in my need and to do so with much zeal. Please do restore my sight, dear Lord. Heal me and help me to see You so that I can follow You wherever You lead. Jesus, I trust in You.
Humility in Prayer
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)
“Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity—greedy, dishonest, adulterous—or even like this tax collector.’” Luke 18:10–11
What a sad prayer. Of course it wasn’t even a prayer to God since the Pharisee “spoke this prayer to himself.” The prayer of the tax collector, however, was a perfect model for all prayer. We read that the tax collector “stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’” Which prayer more resembles your own prayer?
To honestly answer that question, let’s examine both prayers. First of all, the contrast of these two prayers is a contrast between humility and pride. The Pharisee was clearly full of pride. Pride blinds us from true self-knowledge. Saint Teresa of Ávila teaches us that the very first thing we must do on our journey to God is obtain self-knowledge through humility. Without that, we will never grow in holiness.
The sin of pride is obvious in the prayer of the Pharisee and, therefore, his lack of true self-knowledge is also evident. Note that even his physical posture of standing depicts pride. Throughout the Scriptures, kneeling, or even falling prostrate, is the disposition of the humble. In addition to standing, the Pharisee’s prayer was a list of his own goodness. He very well may have fasted twice a week and paid tithes on his whole income. But his prayer suggests that he did this by his own effort. He did not ascribe those acts to the grace and strength of God, which means they were not true acts of charity. His prayer suggests that he doesn’t need God in order to do good. This is also seen in the fact that he asks nothing of God. Instead, he simply thanks God for how good he is through his own effort. The result is that God gives him nothing, since he asked for nothing.
True prayer must begin with the humble recognition of our weakness and need for God. The tax collector expressed this humility by bowing his head to the ground, not even daring to look up to Heaven. This reveals he did not consider himself worthy of God’s grace. Truth be told, he wasn’t worthy of it. That’s why God’s grace is a mercy. It is all mercy in that He bestows that which we are not worthy to receive. And He only bestows it on those who know they are not worthy of it. The words spoken by the tax collector are the perfect model of prayer because his words depict these truths. As a sinner, he doesn’t deserve mercy but begs for God’s grace as an act of God’s mercy.
When you pray, how do you pray? What is the disposition of your heart and for what do you pray? Begin by considering the physical position in which you pray. Though we can pray standing, sitting, kneeling or even lying down, there is something very good about kneeling or even lying prostrate. It doesn’t mean we have to do so the entire time we pray, but it is a good practice to kneel, bow your head or fall down prostrate before God at least for a moment each day. Do you do this? If not, consider making this a daily habit.
When you pray, do you begin your prayer with humility? We begin the Mass by examining our conscience and confessing our sins. This is a good example of how to begin your prayer every time you pray. Humble yourself by calling to mind your sins and weaknesses. Confess them to God and acknowledge the fact that, because of your sins, you are unworthy of God’s mercy. Humility like this will help you to see yourself as God sees you, and this will help you open yourself to the grace you need from God to grow in holiness.
Reflect, today, upon the humility found in the prayer of this tax collector. As you do, look at your own practice of prayer and discern whether you imitate this tax collector’s disposition and prayer. Try to commit to physically humbling yourself before our Lord every day. Kneel, bow your head, or fall down prostrate every day. When you do pray, beg for mercy as one who doesn’t deserve anything from God. This is the humble truth on which all prayer must be based. The more you can humble yourself this way, the more God will lift you up and pour forth His mercy upon you.
O God, be merciful to me, a sinner. I bow before You, most glorious and merciful God. I offer You my praise and gratitude for Your abundant mercy in my life. I am not worthy of You and Your grace, but You bestow it anyway. For that I thank You with profound gratitude and beg for the ongoing gift of Your grace. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Burden of Scrupulosity
Monday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
But the leader of the synagogue, indignant that Jesus had cured on the sabbath, said to the crowd in reply, “There are six days when work should be done. Come on those days to be cured, not on the sabbath day.” The Lord said to him in reply, “Hypocrites! Does not each one of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his ass from the manger and lead it out for watering?” Luke 13:14–15
Why would the leader of the synagogue be “indignant” that Jesus cured a woman on the sabbath? She was crippled for eighteen years! Imagine, especially, her family. They would have seen her many years of suffering and shared them with her through years of compassion. If they were present when Jesus healed her on the sabbath, would they have immediately thought, “How dare Jesus do this healing of our mother, wife or sister on the sabbath?” Of course not! They would have rejoiced and been filled with awe, gratitude, and even tears. This normal reaction that her family would have had upon witnessing this miracle is the right response. And, of course, the reaction of the leader of the synagogue was deeply disordered.
Why would this leader of the synagogue do such a thing? Though he and many other scribes, Sadducess, Pharisees and scholars of the law struggled with envy and hypocrisy, others may sometimes react similarly to this leader of the synagogue for other reasons. One such reason is scrupulosity.
Scrupulosity is the tendency to see God and His holy will through the lens of legalism. “Legalism” is not just being faithful to the Law of God, because that is a good thing. Legalism is a misinterpretation of God’s Law by which one tends to put more emphasis upon themselves than upon God. A scrupulous person is preoccupied with themself. They tend to be far more concerned with sin than with God Himself. And though it’s vital to be concerned with sin, when fear of sinning becomes a form of obsession, then that obsession has the effect of clouding the pure will of God and leaves a person heavily burdened and unable to joyfully live out the authentic will of God.
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux was one saint who openly shared her struggles with scrupulosity in her autobiography. Of this struggle, which she referred to as “oversensitivity,” she said, “One would have to pass through this martyrdom to understand it well, and for me to express what I experienced for a year and a half would be impossible.” However, she eventually experienced what she called a “complete conversion” by which the heavy burden of oversensitivity was lifted. Though this oversensitivity oppressed her in various ways, one way it affected her was that she feared that even some of her random thoughts were mortal sins and that she would be condemned for them.
Though the leader of the synagogue was most likely not struggling with “oversensitivity” in the same way as Saint Thérèse, he was acting with an extreme scrupulosity which led him to be harshly judgmental and condemning of our Lord for His good deed done to this crippled woman.
Reflect, today, upon any tendency you may have with these heavy burdens. Do you worry in an irrational way about sin? Do you ever find yourself obsessing over decisions, worrying that you may make the wrong one? Do you think about yourself far more than you think about God and others? If so, you may also be carrying a similar heavy burden that our Lord wants to lift. Serving God and His holy will must become the deepest joy of our lives, not a heavy burden. If you find your Christian walk more of a burden, then turn your eyes away from yourself and look to the merciful God. Run to Him with the utmost confidence of a child, as Saint Thérèse eventually did, and allow yourself to love Him more authentically, freed of scrupulous and self-imposed burdens.
My merciful Lord, You desire to free me from all that burdens me. You desire that I turn to You with the confidence of a child. Please do free me, dear Lord, from any way that I impose burdens upon myself by my obsessions and irrational worries. May I always understand Your infinite love for me and always walk freely and joyfully in Your ways. Jesus, I trust in You.
Planting the Seed, Over and Over Again
Tuesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus said, “What is the Kingdom of God like? To what can I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that a man took and planted in the garden. When it was fully grown, it became a large bush and the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches.” Luke 13:18–19
This short parable should speak to many people far more than they realize. It should be a source of great encouragement to us all as we seek to build up the Kingdom of God through apostolic works.
The mustard seed is very small. At first, when someone holds it in their hand, they may not think much of it. But if they did plant it under ideal conditions, that seed could grow into a tree upwards of 20 feet tall.
Jesus uses this parable to teach us many lessons. One such lesson is that of our apostolic works of charity. When you think of the call of being an apostle for the Lord, spreading the Gospel to the ends of the earth, what comes to mind? Perhaps the first thought is of those who have been entrusted with a very large, public and vibrant ministry. In this case, it is easier to see the good fruit born of one’s apostolic works. But what about you? For most people, they may strive to love and serve others in every small way they can, and they fail to see the abundance of good fruit born from their efforts. When this happens, some may become discouraged and lose zeal for the spreading of the Gospel.
If this is you, then consider the mustard seed. Planting this small seed is representative of much of our apostolic endeavors. God calls us to do small acts of kindness, share our faith in subtle and even hidden ways, serve out of love even when it is unnoticed, and to do so without ceasing. Do these small acts bear fruit for the Kingdom of God? If you believe this parable of the mustard seed, then the answer must be a resounding “Yes.”
Many times in life, we will never see the full effects that our actions have on others. Our negative influence will affect them far more than we realize. And our loving acts of charity, by which we share our faith, will also affect people far more than we realize. Believing in the message of this Parable of the Mustard Seed should lead us to believe that planting those small seeds of faith, through our charity, virtues, and words, will indeed bear an abundance of good fruit, far more than we may ever know, until we enter the glories of Heaven.
Reflect, today, upon your duty to daily plant the smallest seeds of faith and love. Do not get discouraged if your efforts do not bear abundantly obvious fruit. Simply commit yourself to the planting, over and over. Take delight in sowing the seed of faith and see this as your mission. If you do this throughout your life, from Heaven you will look back and be amazed at how God powerfully brought forth His Kingdom through those seemingly insignificant acts of faith and love.
My glorious King, You desire that Your Kingdom grow far and wide through our efforts of love. Please do use me, dear Lord, to plant Your seeds of faith and charity every day. May I never tire of these apostolic endeavors and may I always take great delight in serving You and building Your Kingdom in every way I can. Jesus, I trust in You.
Entering the Narrow Gate
Wednesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” He answered them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.” Luke 13:27
We should definitely take our Lord’s words spoken above to heart. It’s easy to presume we will be saved. It’s easy to simply presume that God is kind and that we are good people at heart and, therefore, salvation is assured. But that’s not what Jesus says.
So who will be saved? When we get to Heaven, God willing, we may be surprised at who is saved and who is not. This is clearly one of the messages of today’s Gospel. Jesus even goes so far to say that some, when they die, will assume they are going to enter into Heaven but will hear our Lord say to them, “I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!” Again, we should take these words to heart.
One of the most dangerous sins we can fall into is presumption. Presumption is deadly because it has a double effect upon us. First, the person caught in presumption is one who has committed mortal sin but has not repented of it. But the presumptuous person also remains incapable of repentance because they refuse to acknowledge their sin. Their conscience is not working. They have blinders on and expect God to wear those same blinders. But God sees all things and judges accordingly.
The “narrow gate” of which Jesus speaks is a simile used by Jesus to tell us that it is not easy to obtain Heaven. It requires a concerted effort on our part as well as the infinite mercy of God. But regarding our part, the attainment of Heaven is only possible if we intentionally seek out the will of God and respond generously to Him. First, that means we confess and turn away from our sins. But from there, it means that we make every effort to fulfill God’s will in our lives.
If this is hard to accept, simply remind yourself that this teaching came directly from Jesus Himself. He is absolutely clear and means what He says. If that fills you with a sort of holy fear, then that is a good thing. “Holy fear” is a gift by which we have a well-ordered conscience that is able to identify those things in our lives that have become immovable obstacles to eternal salvation. The same well-ordered conscience will lead us to that narrow gate which is the only path to eternal life.
Reflect, today, upon the fact that we must all take eternal salvation seriously. If you find that you have become lax in your spiritual life, then use this Gospel as a motivation to change. Do not allow yourself to be one of those knocking at the gates of Heaven, only to realize that our Lord does not know you. Do all you can to eradicate the sin of presumption from your life, and your reward will be truly great in Heaven.
My most merciful Lord, You and You alone can open the gates of Heaven to us, and You and You alone will do so only to those who have responded to Your holy will. Please open my eyes to any ways that I turn from You and remain lax in my spiritual journey. Give me the grace I need to see clearly and to respond to You with all my heart. Jesus, I trust in You.
Protection, Healing and Salvation
Thursday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were unwilling!” Luke 13:34
It’s helpful to ponder the Sacred Heart of Jesus. His heart is one that is strong and gentle, compassionate and just, merciful and truthful. In this Gospel passage, we are given a glimpse of Jesus’ love for the people of Jerusalem. He was not expressing His love for the city, but for the people in the city. It is clear that His deepest desire, His strong yearning, was that they allow Him to draw them close to Him so that He can protect them from all evil.
Jesus begins by speaking the word “Jerusalem” twice. This expresses deep compassion for the people of that city. It also expresses a lament that they have not turned to Him, remaining unwilling to change. Their refusal began long before Jesus walked the earth when their forefathers rejected the call of the prophets to repent and turn back to God. The stubbornness of their fathers continued with the people of Jesus’ day, and He experienced their rejection. This rejection did not lead Jesus to anger or condemnation as much as it led Him to holy sorrow.
The image of a hen gathering her brood under her wings is a lovely image to meditate upon. A mother hen protects her chicks with great courage and without concern for her own safety. When danger approaches, she extends her wings and covers the vulnerable chicks to protect them. Jesus uses this motherly image to express His desire to protect not only the people of Jerusalem, but all of us.
If Jesus yearned to gather the people together under his “wings” to protect them, then we should know, with certainty, that we need our Lord’s protection. He would not desire something that was unnecessary. He is not an overly protective God Who irrationally worries about His children. His concern is real and necessary, and we must know that we need His protection.
As you go about your daily life, do you feel as though you can handle life on your own? Do you act as an independent child who wants to separate yourself from the safety of your parents? Though we must all work to become responsible in life, we will never arrive at a point where we no longer need the protection of our loving God. The world in which we live is filled with dangers from which only God can protect us.
At the beginning of today’s Gospel, Jesus referred to Herod as a “fox.” That image must be seen in the context of Jesus desiring to act as a mother hen, protecting her brood. Jesus was told that Herod was trying to kill Him, but He clearly was not afraid of Herod. Of Herod’s desire to kill Jesus, Jesus said, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and I perform healings today and tomorrow, and on the third day I accomplish my purpose.’” As a protector, Jesus took authority over demons, performed healings and opened the gates of Heaven by rising from the dead on the third day. As we go through life, there will be many demons who seek to attack us. We will need many forms of healing, and without the gift of Jesus’ triumph over death itself, we will not be led to the glories of Heaven. Demons are real. Wounds are real. And the need for a Savior is real.
Reflect, today, upon the image of Jesus acting as a mother hen, extending His wings over you to protect you from the many temptations and diabolical attacks you will encounter in this world. Ponder the fact that you need His daily protection. The demons will never stop their attacks. Mental, emotional and spiritual wounds need His healing. Jesus is the only one Who can protect you and heal you so that He can then pour forth the gift of eternal life. Remain under His protective care, and allow Him to fulfill the yearnings of His Sacred Heart.
My compassionate Lord, You yearn to protect me from the many evils in this world. You yearn to heal me of the wounds my sins have caused. And You yearn to bestow upon me the gift of eternal life. I accept Your protection, dear Lord, and pray for the healing I need. Please cover me always and bestow upon me the gift of eternal life. Jesus, I trust in You.
Friday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
On a sabbath Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully. Luke 14:1
Jesus accepted an invitation from this prominent Pharisee to dine at his house. The people at the dinner were “observing him carefully.” It’s somewhat easy to picture the scene. For most people, being invited to a dinner with many strangers who are observing them carefully may leave them feeling quite uncomfortable and self-conscious. But Jesus showed up with perfect confidence and an unwavering commitment to share the Gospel. One thing we can learn from this dinner and Jesus’ disposition at it is that uncomfortable situations are actually great opportunities to share your faith.
We will all have times when we are put in an uncomfortable situation. Imagine, for example, being invited to a party for a distant relative or a new neighbor. You decided to attend and knew that you would know very few people there. The tendency for those who are shy would be to show up, find someone they know, and then spend the rest of the time with that person. But consider what Jesus did. He probably knew very few people at this dinner. Jesus’ primary purpose in attending was not to just relax and have a fun time while He met new friends. Instead, His primary purpose was to preach His saving message to those in need. Thus, He went to those in need and did so with confidence.
Whether you are one who likes to socialize and meet new people, or are one who dreads such settings, consider the simple fact that these settings are wonderful opportunities to share your faith. Like our Lord, if you are willing to put yourself out there, entering situations that are new and unfamiliar, then you may start to discover that the opportunities abound. New settings and new people are new opportunities to evangelize. True, they are also opportunities to make new friends and enjoy yourself. But if you have a heart set on the desire to share the Gospel, then you will regularly look for new opportunities in which you can somehow share your faith with others.
Reflect, today, upon this simple Gospel scene of Jesus attending a dinner, with many people He did not know, for the purpose of sharing the faith with them. Imagine yourself joining our Lord at this meal. How would you have felt? Would you have been self-conscious and uncomfortable? Or would you have seen it as an opportunity to share the Gospel? Reflect upon how zealous you are in your efforts to evangelize others and recommit yourself to this holy endeavor. Tell our Lord you are ready and willing to be used by Him wherever He sends you and then try to see every new adventure and experience in life as a new opportunity to share Christ’s saving message with others.
My saving Lord, You desire that Your saving message be shared far and wide, to the ends of the earth. Please fill me with zeal for souls. Give me an unwavering desire to share the Gospel with everyone I meet. Please use me, dear Lord, in the way You desire, so that Your love and mercy will be brought to those in need. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Freedom of Humility
Saturday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
“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.” Luke 14:8–9
This is an interesting parable. First of all, it must be noted that a true saint would not be embarrassed by such a humiliation. Instead, they would happily give their seat of honor to another. In fact, they would most likely have immediately taken the “lowest” spot, since this form of worldly honor would mean nothing to them. But Jesus wasn’t speaking at this time to living saints. He was speaking to people who did struggle with desires for worldly esteem. This shows that the people to whom Jesus was speaking were also insecure and lacked healthy self-esteem.
What’s beautiful is that Jesus meets these people where they are at, telling them a parable to which they could relate. These were the guests who were present at a dinner being held by one of the leading Pharisees to which Jesus was also invited. Jesus’ point was to gently share with them the truth that humility was far better than pride. True exultation and honor is found by humbling oneself and elevating others as a way of pointing to their innate dignity and value as persons. This is a hard lesson to learn.
Most people, when in a group of people, will struggle with comparing themselves to others. “She’s prettier” or “He’s more successful” or “They are very educated,” etc. This common tendency often comes as a result of being personally insecure with who you are as a person. However, if you were able to completely be at peace with who you are, if you loved yourself in the way God loves you, then you would be much freer to love others, see their dignity, and even rejoice in the ways that they are successful and exalted.
Jesus concludes His parable by saying, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” To the normal secular mind, this can be a hard truth to grasp. It can be difficult to understand the great value of humility. But humility is simply seeing yourself in the light of truth, in the way God sees you. The humble person does not need the praise and esteem of others. God’s love for them is sufficient. For that reason, humble people not only love themselves as God loves them, but they are then free to turn their full attention to the good of others. This is pure love. And this love is only possible when humility is lived fully.
Reflect, today, upon this gentle teaching of Jesus, given to those who greatly lacked humility. Try to see Jesus’ concern for them and His desire not to embarrass them but to free them from the heavy burden of their insecurities. If you are one who struggles with this, reflect upon our Lord gently inviting you to embrace humility. Pray for this virtue and practice it with sincerity. Know that the attainment of this virtue will open the door to much freedom in your life.
My humble Lord, You knew Yourself with perfection and loved Your own sacred soul with the same love the Father in Heaven had for You. Please help me to discover who I am. Help me to see myself as You see me. May I never be burdened by the distorted desire for earthly honors and worldly esteem. Instead, I pray that this glorious gift of humility will live deeply in my soul. Jesus, I trust in You.
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