Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time: “Walking in Divine Hospitality”
Proverbs 25: 6-12
Hebrews 13: 1- 8
Luke 14: 1; 7-14
"For everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Luke 14: 11)
If this passage seems familiar, it should come as no surprise. It is a thought and theme frequently broached, not only by Jesus, but throughout the Scriptures. Later in this same Gospel, He says, “For everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Luke 18: 14b) In Matthew 23: 12 he repeats, “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” David had written, “You save an afflicted people, but Your eyes are on the haughty whom You abase” (2 Samuel 23: 28), and his son Solomon dealt with the principle repeatedly. In addition to today’s first reading, he penned, “Before honor comes humility” (Proverbs 15: 33b), “Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, but humility goes before honor” (Proverbs 18: 12), and “A man’s pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will attain honor.” (Proverbs 29: 23)
Micah showed the importance of this subject when he said, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6: 8)
In the New Testament we have the words of St. Peter, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.” (1 Peter 5: 5b, 6) St James mirrors the thought when he writes, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble … Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” (James 4: 6, 10)
So we can see this thought repeated ten times in the Bible. Do you think God is serious about it? In today’s Gospel Jesus uses the bad example set by the guests at a dinner given by a Pharisee to bring up this issue of haughtiness versus humility. They were acting in classic pride, each one entering the house with the attitude that they were the most lit person in the room. This is the kind of pride, according to Jesus, that we must avoid.
On the other hand, the passage from Hebrews gives us five examples or types of humility. In verse two it shows us the humility of hospitality. Verse three mentions the humility demonstrated through prison ministry. Proud people don’t do prisons, except as photo ops. Consistent, successful prison ministry requires a great deal of humility. In verse four it discusses the humility required in a successful marriage. Humility of each spouse towards the other is perhaps the most underrated and ignored trait of a successful marriage. Humility is also a great deterrent to adultery. If you humble yourself before someone, you won’t try to steal their spouse!
Verse five reminds us that greed and pride go hand in hand. They both say, “This is mine!” “Me first!” Conversely, contentment and humility are partners for life.
Finally, verse six brings up respect for and submission to spiritual authority. This is always a touchy topic, because we can always find fault with anyone, especially leadership. But note carefully the author’s words: “Considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.” Imitate their faith, not their pride. Pride has resulted in a church riddled with misunderstanding, conflict, and weakness. Don’t imitate that!
So what about verse one, “Let love of the brethren continue”? Love is not a merely part of humility, it is the root of humility. Love is the antidote for pride. Consider some scriptures:
Romans 12: 10 “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor.”
Romans 12: 13 “Contributing to the needs of the saints; practicing hospitality.”
Romans 12: 16 “Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation (conceit).”
1 Corinthians 13: 3 “If I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.”
1 Corinthians 13: 4b, 5 “Love does not brag and is not arrogant, love does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own.”
So how does the Church move forward? How do we pick up pieces and fulfill the will of God for us? In humility. We follow the faith of those who have gone before, but not their pride.
Remember: the antidote for pride is love. Love is the root of humility. And it is only in humility that the Church can accomplish its work.