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Molly CahillNovember 04, 2023
Photo from Unsplash.

A Reflection for the Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop

Find today’s readings here.

When you are invited,
go and take the lowest place
so that when the host comes to you he may say,
‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’ (Lk 14:10)

In September, I got engaged to my boyfriend of several years. It has been a happy and exciting time, and we’ve started to look forward to our big day and all the little details that will be part of it. But as I’d been warned by many people who’ve planned a wedding before, this season is just as (or in some cases even more) filled with questions as it is with celebrations. Have you set a date yet? Where will it be? Who is invited? Do you have your dress? Are you going on a honeymoon? Everyone we know has a seemingly endless list of questions—and even though our family and friends have been nothing but supportive and excited for us, I’ve had to work hard not to let the questions become a source of stress.

So I come to the Gospel looking for comfort, for a reminder of what’s really important and what’s just extra. Surely the minutiae of our wedding reception will mean very little in the eyes of God, I think.

But most of what I’ve read in Scripture about what can go wrong at wedding feasts doesn’t make me feel much better at all.

Of all the people who have advice and opinions about wedding etiquette and the guest list and the seating chart, now Jesus has joined the fray? I can honestly say I didn’t see this one coming.

Of all the people who have advice and opinions about wedding etiquette and the guest list and the seating chart, now Jesus has joined the fray? I can honestly say I didn’t see this one coming.

His message today is specifically to guests, whom he warns not to take a place of honor at the table when they arrive at a wedding feast, for fear that they might be asked to move so a more important guest could take their place. They should, instead, humble themselves and take the lowest place. That way, they don’t risk embarrassment; the host is more likely to approach them and ask them to move to a higher position.

Of course, at its core, today’s Gospel is not really about a wedding, and its purpose is not to add to the hours of sleep I’ll lose over a seating chart. The deeper message comes at the very end of the Gospel: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” If we get caught up in self-importance, it will be our downfall. But if we hold onto the virtue of humility, God will come to our side and pull us to the place of greatest honor: right beside him.

Humility is difficult to develop and even more difficult to sustain. Modern life is filled with opportunities to choose ourselves over others, to look out only for number one, to ignore the link between ourselves and the ones we love. In light of those challenges, Jesus’ message today is crucial: Let God move you. Be among the others, don’t consider yourself more important than the rest. And then let God do what God does. Framed in a somewhat freeing way, it is not up to us to exalt ourselves. It is not up to us to convince others (or ourselves) that we are worthy; that’s God’s job.

I’m sure I’ll still lose sleep over the seating chart, but in light of today’s readings, its purpose shifts in my mind. More than it is about checking an item off the to-do list or answering the eager questions of friends, it is about creating a community—one where everyone can know that they are included, that there is a place at the table that has been chosen for them. It’s clear to me now that the spirit of humility is essential for the task at hand. Sounds like we’ll need God’s help.

More: Scripture

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