Twenty-Second Sunday of the Year Sir 3:17-18,20,28-29; Heb 12:18-19,22-24; Luke 14:1,7-14 We all care about what other people think of us. We want to be respected and to be taken seriously. Our reputation is important to us. And that’s the way it should be. On the other hand, we would all agree that what other people think is not the last word about us, that we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously, and that there are times when our integrity and self-respect is more important than our reputation among others. Jesus has some interesting things to say about all this in today’s gospel reading. In the culture of his time, seating positions at a banquet served as a barometer of people’s social standing. Important people got the best seats, and ordinary folks took what was left. He notices how his fellow guests are jockeying for positions of honor, and he gives them a tip: "Hey, you want to play this game right? Don’t grab a spot at the head table. You could get bumped by some celebrity, and then you’ll look bad. The smart thing is to take a seat at the back. Then your host will move you up the line, and you’ll really look good." His suggestion sounds at first like just a clever way to manipulate one’s neighbors and climb the social ladder, but I think he may have been just teasing them for taking a trivial business so seriously. Then he takes the occasion to make a truly important point that we can all take to heart. Do you know whom we should really be trying to impress? Do you know whose opinion of us counts most of all? God, that’s who. God knows, better than anyone, how I rate as a human being. He knows my good points and my bad points, my strengths and my weaknesses. I can fool some of the people some of the time, but I can’t fool Him. And most of us would probably be surprised to find out where we stand in the sight of God, which means in reality. Some of the things we do that others find most impressive may be far down on God’s list. Conversely, some things about us that make no impression down here could be making us celebrities in heaven. As Jesus says, "Everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted." On another occasion, he said the first would be last and the last would be first. Then, just to make sure that we get the point, he gives an example. The next time you throw a party, instead of rounding up the usual suspects, ask some of the people who don’t get invited anywhere, the ones who can’t give you anything in return. Reach out to the poor, to the unattractive, even to the ungrateful. God loves it when we do stuff like that. And he assures us: "we will be repaid at the biggest dinner of all, in the resurrection of the just." James DiGiacomo, S.J.
"The one who humbles himself shall be exalted."