Sunday, August 21, 2016

Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time - August 28, 2016

First Reading Commentary
The dictionary defines "humble" as: Marked by meekness or modesty in behavior, attitude, or spirit; not arrogant or prideful.  To apply this to the spiritual life is to understand that God is the Master and we are the servants.  To be humble is to be aware of one's own nothingness.  Saint John the Baptist said: "He [Jesus] must increase but I must decrease" (John 3:30).  And Jesus Himself said: "Without Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).  
The ultimate act of humility, however, came from God Himself when He clothed Himself in flesh, made Himself subject to human parents and to His own divine decrees.  He became not only a Servant but a suffering Servant.  He Who is Supreme over all creation subjected Himself to His creation. 
Not seeking that which is sublime or too lofty is by no means suggesting that God is to be avoided.  Certainly the Almighty is far beyond what human beings are able to fully comprehend but it is immensely beneficial to seek what He has revealed about Himself - His love, compassion, mercy, and understanding - while applying what is received from Him to our daily interactions with each other. 
One does have to be on guard, however, and avoid false humility which is nothing more than trying to disguise self-love by downplaying the wonderful gifts that God gives.  Humility is truth.  False humility knows the truth but deep down credits oneself more than God but isn't quite bold enough to say that. 
Second Reading Commentary
This Reading makes a comparison between the Old Covenant and the New and Everlasting Covenant.  Mount Sinai is depicted here to represent the Old Covenant which Moses ascended to receive the commands of God because he was the mediator between God and His people.  Moses was their mediator because after hearing the Voice of God the Israelites were frightened and "begged that no further message be addressed to them". 
Mount Zion, which signifies the Church triumphant or heaven, is the New and Everlasting Covenant established by the Blood of Christ resulting in an eternal dwelling of "countless angels in festal gathering, the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven, and the spirits of the just made perfect". 
In the Old Covenant, all the sacrifices offered to God still could not spare the people from everlasting death.  In the New Covenant, God Incarnate sacrificed Himself so that He could descend to the regions of death and defeat death forevermore.  In the Old Covenant there was an air of apprehension among the people of God.  In the New, Christ has forever established the family of God.
Gospel Commentary
Jesus is dining with one of the leading Pharisees.  He tells a parable which very cleverly compares the level of humility found at this banquet to another type of banquet.  When reading the guest list from this other type of banquet it becomes clear that Jesus is speaking of the heavenly banquet. 
The Pharisee is actually practicing the religious law of hospitality, but is doing so with the intent of promoting his own prestige.  From what is known about the Pharisees, it can be reasoned that if there was to be a heavenly banquet, the Pharisees would automatically consider themselves invited.  This disposition of self-aggrandizement, however, could result in exclusion instead of inclusion. 
Not inviting friends or relatives but only "the poor, the crippled, the lame" and "the blind" is not meant to be interpreted literally; there's a lesson here that is offered by our Savior concerning the level of charity that should consume the human heart.  In other words, "the poor, the crippled, the lame" and "the blind" are not likely able to pay back that which is given to them; therefore charitable works are to be done without expecting anything in return.  Charity should be approached with the mindset that those in need are also children of God.  Even the Pharisees of this day and age - those who exalt themselves - have a place in a Christian's house of charity. 
Consider the charity and love of our Blessed Mother.  She watched the Son she brought into this world agonize and die on the Cross; and in those waning moments of her Son's agony, plus the agony from the sword that has pierced her soul, her Divine Son informs her that she in all her perfect purity was to become the Mother of sinful humanity, the very ones responsible for her Son's Sacrifice.  Seemingly this would have been an excellent opportunity to begin grumbling; but instead she embraces this vocation and lovingly shows her spiritual children the best path to the Way, the Truth and the Life. 
Dom Louis Rouvier, in his "Journal de Mai" writes: "Never did this sweet Virgin conceive the slightest feelings of animosity towards anyone.  And yet, who has been put to a more severe test than she?  Nevertheless, neither hatred nor resentment ever found its way into her heart."  If you're thinking that our Blessed Mother had an advantage by being conceived without sin, remember that our Lord commands us to love our enemies and love our neighbor.  If He commands it, you can bet He has provided the grace to do it. 
Certainly Jesus is a sign of contradiction.  On the surface, dining with a Pharisee while at the same time living a life of complete and loving self-abandonment seems incompatible and controversial.  But aren't devout Christians signs of contradiction by worldly standards?  As loyal disciples of Jesus, the Christian eyes are fixed on Him, striving to be Him to all those who need His compassion, love, charity and mercy.  In a sense, then, these warriors for Christ are representatives of heaven, proclaiming the way of the Lord to a culture that is at odds with the Christian lifestyle.
One of the relatable benefits of the Incarnation is that we can put a Face and a Body on our God Who entered into humanity through a Woman.  In the midst of trying to contemplate countless celestial mysteries, our Lord's humanness is something we can at least intellectually conceive and also are quite familiar with from our own life's experiences in the natural order.