29 August 2010 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sirach 3, 17-18; Psalm 68; Hebrews 12, 18-24; Luke 14, 1-14
Today Jesus addresses our base motives. I have two points:
First, a word about humility. Humility is not low self-esteem or self-abasement. We are not to behave in a way so as to degrade or belittle ourselves. This is false humility. It is false because we use our humble behavior as a subterfuge, a ploy to be noticed by the everyone as we are led to our “prominent seats.”
We do have a graphic illustration of the meaning of the parable. President Benigno Aquino III supported Senate Bill 2187 penalizing the practice of naming government projects after public officials. He, himself, rejected proposals naming him after projects paid by and for taxpayers. The bill’s proponent is Senator Francis Escudero. Sen. Escudero said in an interview that naming projects after politicians “falsely gives an inflated sense of accomplishment” for the public officials’ constituents.” Self-exaltation must not be sought either openly or secretly.
Jesus makes the pronouncement, “Everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” So, now that the bill is passed, those who want to have their names imprinted on government infrastructure are humbled as well as prohibited. They are humiliated by the truth publicly articulated by the President. Tax payers financed government infrastructures and not public officials. By putting their names on those buildings, they want us to thank them for a job they’re suppose to do and as a fulfillment of their promises during elections. And therefore, they should thank us; not the other way around. (We are even skipping the fact that they also benefitted from these projects.)
We therefore learn that it is better if people talk about what we’ve done, than talking about what we’ve done for them ourselves. We don’t use public buildings and infrastructure to advertise ourselves. Humility is letting people recognize our worth without self-promotion. And not coercing or coaxing the recognition from others.
And this lesson is also pertinent to Church officials.
Humility involves the healthy and correct love of self. Jesus commanded us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. And so it means self-awareness and appreciation: we acknowledge our abilities, dignity and honor as gifts from God. Whatever our achievements, we owe it to God and to others. So better, everything that we do should reflect and point to God who endowed us with our gifts. The limelight should also fall on others, like tax payers, who deserve excellent service.
The second point connects with the first. An unworthy motive appears in the words of Jesus to the host. There is an impression: the invitation to dinner has an expectation of reciprocity. I invite you, so you invite me the next time. The point is clear: we must do good freely, without regard for a reward. We usually say too: and leave the recompense with God. But to me, not even that. Don’t even think about that. Just serve God. Just love God.
I got this question from someone in my Q and A website:
Question: “Father what if there was no hell, and the unrepentant (who are very corrupt and evil) get off scot-free in the end? Isn’t it unfair that they don’t get punished, and isn’t it more infuriating that they enjoy what other people had been deprived of?”
This was my answer: St. Francis Xavier SJ said that He would love God with or without heaven or hell. We love for love’s sake. We love God for the sake of God. This is what we are to do in faith.
Thus, when we say, we should love God so that we can go to heaven, we really this: we should love God so we can be WITH GOD.