Will we be outcasts in God’s Kingdom?
Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time/Sept. 1
Sirach 3:17-18,20,28-29; Psalm 68:4-5,6-7,10-11; Hebrews 12:18-19,22-24a; Luke 14:1,7-14
This summer we have been treated to excerpts from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke. Each of the four Evangelists brings a slightly different insight into their proclamation of Jesus. Perhaps, the stories about Jesus have become so familiar some two millennia into movement, we forget that the resurrection of Jesus was a shocker. In Mark, the women flee the tomb on Easter morning “seized with trembling and bewilderment.” In Luke, the apostles think the women’s story of men in dazzling white garments “seemed like nonsense and they didn’t believe them.”
Once the initial shock and disbelief passed, the Church got down to the challenge of making sense of these amazing events. What they believe fills the New Testament. The Gospels bear a striking similarity to each other. We might say that in a strategic sense the Gospels proclaim the same events for the same purpose — the salvation of humanity. All the same, the logistics vary from one Gospel to another and these variations seem to be intentional. There’s a method to it and an appreciation of the differences brings a richness to our understanding of these four remarkable documents.
Why focus on the outcasts? Because these people are devoid of the arrogance that stops us from accepting salvation in Christ.
Luke’s Gospel might be described as the proclamation to the outcast. The wonderful story of the Good Samaritan, found only in Luke, that we heard earlier this summer illustrates this. Luke understands Jesus’s invitation to enter into the Kingdom of God as a call for the liberation of the outcasts who have been marginalized simply because of who they are or what has befallen them.
Why focus on the outcasts? Because these people are devoid of the arrogance that stops us from accepting salvation in Christ. Luke calls us to humility as both a cure for and a preventer of the arrogance that impedes conversions.
So how should we cultivate humility? Jesus says, “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.”
Humility is the virtue of accepting the truth about oneself. When we recognize our own sinfulness, we acknowledge our need for Christ, which is just what St. Luke had in mind. The rest of this week’s Gospel offers another practical way to help others while we cultivate humility so that we might realize that when it comes to the Kingdom of God, the last thing we want to be is an outcast.
Jesus says, “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.”
Cultivate humility and we will see the humanity of others, perhaps leading us to see the outcast in ourselves. Then we might realize that we also desperately need to be saved and open our hearts to Jesus. It sounds like we are just the folks St. Luke had in mind for his proclamation of Jesus.
Tim Irwin teaches theology and philosophy at Notre Dame High School in Peoria. He is a member of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Morton.