26TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME: THE GREAT ABYSS BETWEEN THE RICH AND THE POOR

Economic inequality, the huge gap between the rich and the poor, is one of the most tragic reality of our times. Despite globalization and the height of capitalism which increased the wealth of the world to unimaginable levels, the gap between the rich and the poor is worst today than ever before. Michael Hunt, in his book, The World Transformed: 1945 to the Present, stated that in 1820, the ratio between the income of the top and bottom 20 percent of the world’s population was three to one. By 1991, it was eighty-six to one.[1]

Oxfam, a confederation of 20 independent charitable organizations founded in 1942 to focus on the alleviation of global poverty, reported that in 2017, 82% of global wealth generated went to the wealthiest 1%.[2] In 2019 ,Oxfam reported that the poorest half of the human population has been losing wealth (around 11%) at the same time that a billionaire is minted every two days. [3]

The gap between the rich and the poor will continue to rise in the years ahead just as the average temperature of the earth will keep rising over the next years. There is so much wealth in the world at the expense of 99% of the people and the degradation of mother nature.

The readings for today’s 26th Sunday in ordinary time also also talked about the “great abyss” between the rich and the poor.

In the first reading, the prophet Amos depicts the scandalous luxury of the rich at the expense of the poor, 500 years before Jesus’ times

Lying upon beds of ivory,
stretched comfortably on their couches,
they eat lambs taken from the flock,
and calves from the stall!
Improvising to the music of the harp,
like David, they devise their own accompaniment.
They drink wine from bowls
and anoint themselves with the best oils;

In the gospel Jesus tells the story of Lazarus and a rich man. Jesus illustrates graphically the scandalous gap between the life of  Lazarus and the rich man.

There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen
and dined sumptuously each day.
And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,
who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps
that fell from the rich man’s table.

Ironically, the rich man goes nameless, whereas Jesus told us at the outset that the beggar is named Lazarus. The irony is that while it is a preoccupation of the “great ones” of this world to be remembered, it is one of the “nameless ones”—the beggar, who gets named in the story.

The huge gap between Lazarus and the rich man did not just happen on earth but continued in heaven.

Between us and you a great chasm is established
to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go
from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’

In heaven, however, the wheel of fortune are overturned.

When the poor man died,
he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.
The rich man also died and was buried,
and from the netherworld, where he was in torment,
he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off
and Lazarus at his side.

Indeed the story illustrates Luke’s version of the Beatitudes and “Woes” proclaimed earlier in his gospel: “Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied (Lk 6:21). “But woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry” (Lk 6:25).

The rich man’s problem in the gospel and the problem of the rich in Amos’ first reading is not their wealth but their complacency.  Amos proclaims the woe of the Lord upon the complacency of the rich: Woe to the complacent in Zion! Amos satirizes the self-indulgent wealthy who have become oblivious to the decline of their society (“the collapse of Joseph”). Like the “complacent in Zion” who “are not made ill by the collapse of Joseph,” the rich man in the Gospel can neither see nor hear: he does not see Lazarus in need at his door; he does not listen to Moses and the prophets who guide him in right ways. The rich man is not in “the netherworld, where he was in torment” simply because of the good he received during his lifetime, but because his self-contained, self-satisfied lifestyle was not faithful to the teaching and practice of the Mosaic covenant.

The Gospel and First Reading proclaims prophetic warning to the rich.  The letter to Timothy in the second reading adds its own wake-up call:

I charge you before God, who gives life to all things,
and before Christ Jesus, …
to keep the commandment without stain or reproach
until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Pope Francis in his General Audience on May 18, 2016 says that Lazarus represents the silent cry of the poor of all times and the contradictions of a world where vast wealth and resources are in the hands of few.

The problem of shocking inequality may tempt us, especially from 1st world countries, to shrug off any responsibility for our personal part in it. But we reap the fruits from the prosperity of the developed world that began with products that were looted from the colonies. This exploitation continues today. We get primary resources from developing countries for a relative pittance, like the tea and coffee we drink, or our year-long supply of fruit from tropical countries. We can buy clothes of quality brands because a woman in El Salvador makes clothes for 56 cents an hour. We can enjoy lots of chocolates at the expense of widespread use of child labor, and in some cases slavery, on cocoa farms in Western Africa.

Added to that, 1st world countries still look to poorer countries to accept their toxic waste. After feeding and clothing ourselves with their resources, we want to return our rubbish to them. Almost all of us are contributing to climate change, yet we don’t relish the lifestyle changes that must happen, to reverse those abuses.

We who live today have even a further revelation beyond Moses and the prophets: we are to hear and put into practice the truth of the Gospel affirmed by Jesus who rose from the dead.

We need to learn from the ultimate fates of Dives and Lazarus. Our world is too small to bear such inequalities as our greedy complacency allows to continue. Unless we share our surplus and care for our world, we will end up in a hell of our own making. By so doing, we choose now on which side of the chasm we will be in the next life.

 


 

[1] Hunt, Michael (2004). The World Transformed: 1945 to the Present. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s. p. 442.

[2] Elliott, Larry (January 21, 2018). “Inequality gap widens as 42 people hold same wealth as 3.7bn poorest”. The Guardian. Retrieved January 23, 2018.

[3] Picchi, Aimee (January 20, 2019). “A new billionaire is minted every 2 days as the poor lose wealth”. CBS News. Retrieved January 21, 2019.

25TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME: OPPORTUNISTS FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD

baclaran-jpic

Last Friday, we saw the biggest planetary gathering for climate change. Millions of mostly young people flooded the streets around the world Friday to take part in the Global Climate Strike and pressure world leaders to confront the ecological crisis. According to 350.org, over 4 million people took part in the collective demonstrations worldwide. In Australia alone, an estimated 400,000 gathered last Friday.

Children carried placards that read “There Is No Planet B” and “Make The Earth Great Again,” a twist on President Donald Trump’s rallying cry of “Make America Great Again.” Many of the young demonstrators expressed extreme urgency for taking drastic action to mitigate the effects of climate change.  Taking no action now will endanger if not destroy the future of the next generation.  But not just immediate action, they demanded wise solutions in finding a way out of this mess that we humans had created. Indeed, this alarming situation can be transformed into a productive one.

In today’s gospel of the 25th Sunday in ordinary time, Jesus through a parable, called his disciples to be cunning in order to find way out of any mess they find themselves in and to prepare for their ultimate future–a future in eternity with God.

The parable is known as “The Unjust Steward” which has puzzled many readers of the parables of Jesus. A way out of the puzzle, however, is to understand the economic system which forms the background behind the parable.

The background of the parable is an economic practice in Jesus’ times where a manager enjoying considerable autonomy lets out items of his master’s property for a commission or interest which includes some proportion for himself. As far as the master is concerned there is nothing particularly dishonest in this; he gets his interest. If the manager gets a cut as well, so be it. In the story as told by Jesus, it would seem that what the manager does after receiving notice about his dismissal is to strip away the portion of the interest accruing to himself. He cancels his own cut because he reckons that it will be more advantageous when he is out of work – and too weak to dig and too ashamed to beg – to have the goodwill of people who may be able to help him, welcoming him into their homes. He “buys” their goodwill in this way and the master wryly praises him for what he has done. By incurring some immediate loss to secure long-term interest, he has acted “sensibly”. He has not clung to his wealth but used it to win goodwill that will serve him in the hour of need that is coming his way.

The master is not condoning his dishonesty but praising his ability to figure his way out of a mess that he had created. The steward showed an ability to accurately assess his situation and turn it to his advantage.

Being astute about wealth is a particular theme in the gospel of Luke. We need to be clever opportunists, by using wealth in the ways that Jesus elsewhere advocates the use of resources—feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, lending but asking nothing in return. Luke sums this up with Jesus’ saying that the only really useful thing about accumulating wealth is to give it away so that it will store up “treasure in heaven” (12:33).  With so much more at stake (eternal life), the wealthy would be well advised to strip themselves of their wealth now in order to win friends among the poor. When the poor have their privileged places in the kingdom, these same poor will welcome these benefactors into “eternal dwellings”.

The opposite of the example of the dishonest but cunning steward is articulated by Amos in the First Reading (Amos 8:4-7). The prophet Amos attacks the hypocrisy of rich land-owners who observed the law against trade on the new moon but secretly longed for the feast to be over so that they could resume their defrauding of the poor. In any case, the law (Lev 19:9-10) enjoined them to leave the “sweepings of the wheat” for the poor to harvest.

What about us? How able are we to figure out the spiritual life and to work towards its goals? How can we make use of our failures, mistakes and sins to our advantage.

The readings today challenges us to put transitory affairs in proper perspective. Christians should handle the affairs of temporal life with an eye toward eternal life. In the everyday humdrum of life, we rarely think about the ultimate future. Life itself pressures us into shortsighted choices for living. Discipleship, on the other hand, calls us to live in such a way that our daily choices form patterns of behavior that move us toward God’s promise of life eternal.

Our challenging times today demands that we become cunning and resourceful. We need to think of the fate of our future generation. Our present lifestyle is no longer sustainable. Drastic actions needs to be done. We can find innovative solutions that can turn this critical situation to our advantage.

But more than temporal wisdom, we need Christian astuteness. We need to do something more lasting: to use of the wealth to build something more lasting – friendships. This is the blessing that the dishonest steward showed us. He uses the present wealth to invest on future relationships.

Jesus calls us to take advantage of the mess, faults and failures we have made out of our selves and the world toward a future that is beyond this world. This is particularly true about money, as Jesus concludes,

“And so I tell you this:
use money,
tainted as it is,
to win you friends,
and thus make sure that when it fails you,
they will welcome you into eternal dwellings”

Jesus calls us today to be opportunists for the Kingdom of God.

24TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME: SHARING IN THE EXTRAVAGANT MERCY OF GOD

extravagant mercy of God

Once in a while, we rejoice and celebrate extravagantly. We throw out a party and provide abundant food and drinks. Some people think that these parties and celebrations are excessive and senseless. Think, for example, of a poor family who would extravagantly prepare a banquet during fiesta and feed the whole barrio when throughout the whole year they would just be eating mostly rice and dried fish.

When was the last time you celebrated extravagantly? Perhaps it was on a special event like wedding or birthdays, or when you got promoted or closed a business deal, or when you achieved a major milestone in your profession or when you found something of great value, which you have lost for a long time.

In the gospel for today’s 24th Sunday in ordinary time we hear about God’s extravagant rejoicing and celebration. We hear of God’s extravagance from Jesus in not just one but three parable stories–indeed, an extravagant way to teach about God’s extravagance.

In the first story, the parable of The Lost Sheep, the shepherd leaves behind the 99 sheep to search for the 1 lost sheep. When he finds it, the shepherd rejoices with friends and neighbors. The second story, about a poor woman who will not stop searching until she finds her lost coin. And when she find it she calls together her friends and neighbors to rejoice with her. In both stories, Jesus ends with the punch line:

I tell you, in just the same way
there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents
than over ninety-nine righteous people
who have no need of repentance.

there will be rejoicing among the angels of God
over one sinner who repents.”

Finally, the third parable story, the longest and most memorable parable in the Gospels, the story we have come to know as The Prodigal Son. Just as in The Lost Sheep and The Lost Coin, this story (found only in Luke) is really about the seeker. The loving father is at the center of this parable. Even though his second son runs off with his father’s inheritance and squanders the money, the father waits for him, hoping for his return. Upon his son’s return, the father, “full of compassion,” runs out to embrace and forgive him before the son can utter one word of repentance. He orders the slaughtering of the fattened calf and celebrate with a feast.

Jesus portrays God’s extravagance in all three parables as God’s finding and celebrating the return of repentant sinners who are of greatest value to God. God’s joy is the return of the lost who have found or re-found their treasure in God.

In short, we can describe the extravagance of God in one word – mercy! Jesus’ portrayal of God’s extravagant mercy in all three parables was in response to the heaps of criticism he received from the Pharisees who saw him welcoming and eating with “tax collectors (social outcasts) and sinners”.  But God’s mercy goes against common sense. God is merciful to the extent that God would “foolishly” leave behind the 99 good ones to seek out the 1 lost and rebellious one. The “foolishness” of God represented by each of the main actors in the parables reflects in some way the supreme “foolishness” of God’s love demonstrated in the Cross (cf. 1 Cor 1:21-25).

Heaven is the ultimate expression of God’s extravagance. God’s celebration of “these lost ones being being “found” or “re-found” by God is nothing other than a reflection on earth of a much greater celebration going on in heaven (v. 7; v.10; vv. 23-24; v. 32). Heavenly joy is the gathering and sharing in the banquet of God of all sinners, deserters and reckless ones who have rediscovered their original goodness and returned to the source of their goodness–God. Heaven is not the place for perfect people but for the crooked, transgressors and weaklings perfected by God’s grace.

The Second Reading is a narration of a personal experience about this “foolish” mercy of God. Paul, in his letter to Timothy, explains that he once was a persecutor of God’s people. He doesn’t gloss over his own evil then or make himself a moral idiot. But Paul says that he obtained mercy from God anyway, because God could see the man that Paul could become. For the sake of the man Paul could be in the future, God had mercy on him.

Today’s readings invites us to rejoice with God and share in his extravagant mercy and acceptance for the lost and sinners. This could begin with ourselves. The lost and repentant sinner could be you and me.  By experiencing God’s extravagant mercy we can be extravagantly merciful to our fellow sinners and lost ones.

 

23RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME: THE FREEDOM OF BEING DISCIPLES OF CHRIST

youth-Laoag

Some of the misconceptions put forward against Christianity is that it curtails freedom. Some atheists and agnostics argue that Christianity is very stifling and suffocating as it puts a lot of demands.

On the other hand, true believers in Christ can attest to the fact that following Jesus is a very liberating experience. They truly experienced Jesus’ words: “The truth will set you free” (John 8: 32). They experienced true freedom after they discovered the truth about themselves and the world as a consequence of following Jesus. Subsequently, this entailed throwing off the lies and deceptions to which they have been captive for so long.

In the second reading of today’s 22nd Sunday in ordinary time, St. Paul wrote to Phelemon on behalf of Onesimus, a runaway slave who had wronged his owner Philemon, to receive him no longer as a slave but as a “brother beloved.”

that you might have him back forever,
no longer as a slave
but more than a slave, a brother,
beloved especially to me, but even more so to you,
as a man and in the Lord.
So if you regard me as a partner, welcome him as you would me.

St. Paul’s letter to Philemon is a prison letter, co-authored by Paul with Timothy, to Philemon, a leader in the Colossian church. It is often assumed from the letter that Onesimus, a slave, had fled Philemon, his owner, after stealing money, as Paul states in verse 18 that if Onesimus owes anything, Philemon should charge this to Paul’s account. Sometime after leaving, Onesimus came into contact with Paul, although again the details are unclear. He may have been arrested and imprisoned alongside Paul. Alternatively, he may have previously heard Paul’s name (as his owner was a Christian) and so travelled to him for help. After meeting Paul, Onesimus became a Christian believer. An affection grew between them, and Paul would have been glad to keep Onesimus with him. However, he considered it better to send him back to Philemon with an accompanying letter, which aimed to effect reconciliation between them as Christian brothers.

There is a very radical idea that Paul puts forward in this letter. Paul was implying to Philemon that the consequence of Onesimus’ conversion to Christ is that the runaway is no longer simply a slave but a “brother in the Lord.” Let us remember that slavery was an accepted institution in Paul’s time. In this letter, therefore, Paul states a revolutionary idea, especially during those times, that there are no longer divisions between slaves and free people in Christ. In fact, as Paul wrote in another letter – the letter to the Galatians (3:28) – all divisions and exclusion should be eliminated in the new family of God:

There is no longer Jew or Greek,
there is no longer slave or free,
there is no longer male and female;
for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

Baptism into the body of Christ created an equality of dignity that transcends distinctions grounded in race, law, and even gender. Paul has planted a seed here that, with painful slowness, will come to fruition centuries later.

The Christian paradox of freedom is written all over the letter. Although Paul was in prison, he was proclaiming about freedom. His external environment may have been the prison but internally he was absolutely free. He talked about the new-found identity of Onesimus who is no longer a slave but a brother on equal putting with fellow Christians because of his conversion to Christ. He was imploring Philemon to accept Onesimos back into his care with this new found freedom in Christ.

Indeed, you cannot hold captive a person even if you incarcerate him. The names of  Nelson Mandela, our national hero Jose Rizal, St. Thomas More, Dietrich Bonhoeffer,  immediately comes to my mind. Sometimes those who are in jail are freer than those who are living outside of jail but are held captive by their own internal demons for so long.

Paul’s sensitive and clever letter of intercession illustrates well the point of this Sunday’s Gospel. When Jesus lays down the shocking teaching that following him entails a readiness to turn one’s back on family members, he states a stark consequence that accompanies good news: finding and following the will of God in Jesus makes us part of a new family that goes deeper (and wider) than blood.

This comes, however, at the expense of one of the harshest words of Jesus about family life found in the New Testament:

“If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother,
wife and children, brothers and sisters,
and even his own life,
he cannot be my disciple.
Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me
cannot be my disciple.”

American biblical scholar, John J. Pilch commented that in Jesus’ time, the main rule of behavior is: family first! A disciple who deliberately cuts ties with family and social network will lose the ordinary means of making a living. This is the “economic cross” the disciple has chosen to carry.

No longer able to make claims to a livelihood based on blood ties and advantageous social network, a disciple have to rely on “hospitality,” which in the Middle East is extended exclusively by strangers to strangers (see Lk 9:4-5; 10:3-12). This risk-filled option is quite a cross to carry.

By joining a new, fictive family consisting of other disciples of Jesus, however, a “family-hating” person presumably has a new source of livelihood. Nevertheless, a disciple who has accepted these challenging exhortations will effectively have given up everything. Therefore, a would-be disciple must seriously calculate the costs.

Two brief parables (about construction and waging war) drive this point home. Anyone who weakens and abandons this determination will become the butt of ridicule and shame. A disciple must remain firmly committed.

Jesus teaches us today that discipleship requires both renunciation and calculation. Those who wish to follow him must renounce everyone and everything that gets in the way of a single-minded response to Jesus’ invitation to be his disciple. At the same time, disciples are not naively to follow Jesus. They must calculate and consent to the cost—the price is giving their all, even their own life. What the One who calls gives disciples in return, however, is beyond calculation—fullness of new Life

Christian freedom is one of the many paradoxes of the Christian faith. True freedom means willingly becoming a slave to Christ, which happens through an ever growing relationship with Him (Colossians 2:16–17).

To follow Jesus of taking up of one’s cross is a sheer act of freedom. Following Jesus is liberating. It frees us from all attachments, prejudices, possessions and barriers to experiencing the redeeming grace of the cross. At the cost of leaving behind our own family and our own small lives, however, we gain a hundredfold of families and we become fully human and fully alive.

September 8: Celebrating Mary’s Birthday

“She is the flower of the field from whom bloomed the precious lily of the valley.
Through her birth the nature inherited from our first parents is changed.””
—Saint Augustine

This Sunday, September 8, we commemorate the Birth of Mary, Mother of our Lord—a feast which Catholics have been celebrating since at least the sixth century. Since it is Sunday, however, the celebration of Mary’s birthday in the liturgy, gives way to the celebration of the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary time. Indeed, this is what Mary would have intended; she considers herself as mere God’s instrument in the salvation that comes through her Son.

This would not prevent devotees in the Baclaran shrine, however, to celebrate the birthday of our blessed mother Mary.  Many devotees will flock to Baclaran and attend the Sunday mass, and at the same time express affection to Mary on her birthday.  I would not be surprise if after each Sunday mass, devotees will heartily sing “Happy Birthday” to Mary. Many will offer flowers to her icon and in the altar. Indeed, this day is a happy day for many devotees as they share in the joy of the birth of Mary who is their intercessor and companion in the journey of life full of trials and tribulations.

This year’s celebration of Mary’s birthday at the shrine will be special as the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help was officially removed from the high altar on September 5, 2019 to give way for the Altar renovation. Today, September 7, 2019, Saturday, it will be displayed for public veneration and vigil after the 5:45 PM Mass until midnight. This is indeed a special opportunity for devotees as they can have a closer physical contact with the icon as they celebrate the birthday of Mary tomorrow.

Likewise, on September 10, Tuesday, after the 9:30 AM Mass there will be a touching of the icon until midnight. For the rest of the time, the Icon will be secured by the Redemptorists until the altar is ready for her return.

This is a very significant religious event for us, devotees of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. In this very rare occasion, we will have a life time chance to have a face to face encounter with the Icon.

May this experience helps us to reflect and be moved by our God who always goes down from heaven to meet us in the rough grounds of daily living.

removal of icon

 

The Icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in the Shrine will be Removed from the Altar

benediction1

The Baclaran Church has been a center of Marian devotion in the last 70 years with thousands of miracles attributed to our Mother of Perpetual Help. The Icon placed high above the altar of the church is the focus of this devotion and is considered miraculous.

On September 5, 2019, the Icon will be temporary removed from the altar. This is only the third time to happen since. The first time it was removed was during the World War II for safekeeping. The second was in 1992 when the Icon underwent restoration. Now, 27 years later, it will be taken down to give way for the Altar renovation.

It will be officially removed on September 5, 2019, Thursday, after the 9:30 AM Mass. However, on September 7, 2019, Saturday, it will be displayed for public veneration and vigil after the 5:45 PM Mass until midnight. This is timely as we celebrate the birthday of Mary on September 8. Likewise, on September 10, Tuesday, after the 9:30 AM Mass until midnight. Otherwise, the Icon will be secured by the Redemptorists until the altar is ready for her return.

This is a very significant religious event for us, devotees of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. In this very rare occasion, we will have a life time chance to have a face to face encounter with the Icon. May this experience helps us to reflect and be moved by our God who always goes down from heaven to meet us in the rough grounds of daily living.

22ND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME: TRUE HONOR

true-honor

One of the most common Filipino cultural trait is utang na loob which, when translated literally, means “a debt of one’s inner self (loob)” or simply a “debt of gratitude.”  The essence of utang na loob is an obligation to appropriately repay a person who has done one a favor. I do you a favor; you do me a favor. According to Filipino Psychologist Katrin de Guia, however, utang na loob goes much deeper than ordinary debt or even the western concept of owing a favor because loob involves a deeply personal internal dimension.  Utang na loob thus reflects the kapwa orientation of shared personhood or shared self, which is at the core of the Filipino values system. [1]

This trait is also very common among the Jews in Jesus’ time. In the Gospel of today’s 22nd Sunday in Ordinary time, Jesus told a parable which comments on this practice of reciprocity. The practice of reciprocity was a key factor in the economic life of equals in Jesus’ day. I do you a favor; you do me a favor—endlessly. This basic rule of behavior guided every host in drawing up the guest list.

Thus, accepting an invitation to dinner in the ancient Jewish world obligated a guest to return the favor. It was not uncommon for guests to decline the invitation, especially if they realized that returning the favor was more than they could or cared to handle (Luke 14:15-24). On the other hand, inviting people who cannot return the favor is viewed as cultural suicide. Jesus’ advice to his host was, therefore, not only rude and insulting but also shocking.

Then he said to the host who invited him,
“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.”

Such guests—the poor, crippled, lame, and blind—are clearly people of a lower social status than the host. To associate with such is to dishonor one’s own status. One’s social equals will then shun future invitations, and a host of means will be socially ruined.

Jesus, however, paints another picture of “true” honor. It is not human judgment, the return invitation, that determines honor. God determines true honor, and at the resurrection of the righteous, God personally will reward and honor the host who has been gracious to those unable to return an invitation.

Jesus echoes the First Reading, from Sirach:

My child, conduct your affairs with humility,
and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts.
Humble yourself the more, the greater you are,
and you will find favor with God.

Humility is the virtue by which we acknowledge our status before God: we are “the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind” who come to God’s table because of God’s invitation and generosity.

God, in the person of Jesus (see Lk 14:8), is inviting all people to the messianic feast. The only way to respond to this invitation is to renounce any claim or merit of one’s own.

The Pharisees expected the best seats as a reward for keeping the Torah, but, like the outcast, they have to learn that salvation has to be accepted as an unmerited gift—exactly as Sirach proclaims in the first reading.

Today’s liturgy challenges us to a different lifestyle, one based on forgiveness, love and faith, humble living, the following of Jesus, who is gentle and lowly of heart, peacemaking and suffering persecution, and service of others. It is responding to the challenge of living a shared personhood or shared self with others in the “God who has made a home for the poor.”

 


 

[1] Katrin de Guia,  Kapwa: The Self in the Other: Worldviews and Lifestyles of Filipino Culture-Bearers (Pasig City: Anvil Publishing, Inc. 2005), 378.