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I THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW | Living the Word of Jesus prepares us for the heavenly feast

‘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.’

To me, the readings for the 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time seem to instruct us: “Make room in your hearts for your God, because He is the source of all of your goodness and your gifts.”

Isn’t it true that the more humble you are, the more the poor will come to you to find godliness? Charles de Foucauld once said, “If you look for the work that no one else wants to do, you will always find Jesus.” The poor are reluctant to approach the haughty because the poor are looking for Jesus.

Once when a man on the street asked me for some money, I told him that I honestly did not have any, but I asked him if I could pray for him. He said, “Oh, that would be great!” When I finished praying for him, he profusely thanked me that I had given him Jesus. Money was only the symbol of the love and affirmation for which he was craving. His unexpressed questions were: “Am I worth anything at all? Does anyone care that I exist? Do I have a purpose in life? Does Jesus care that I exist?” When I finished praying for him, he loudly exclaimed with great joy: “Thank you Jesus!” If I had money, I might have dismissed him and would never have discovered his deeper hunger.

The first reading tells us: “Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God.” As we become more aware that we were created in weakness, the more we will find ourselves gifted because it gives us so much room to invite God to live in weaknesses; that is why He created us in weakness.

The reading continues: “The mind of a sage appreciates proverbs, and an attentive ear is the joy of the wise.” The more we listen to God’s word in silence, the more joyous we become because divine wisdom replaces the passing sensations which the un-redeemed mind mistakenly feels will bring fulfillment.

The second reading tells us that we have “approached Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and countless angels in festal gathering, and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven, and God the judge of all, and the spirits of the just made perfect, and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and the sprinkled blood that speaks more eloquently than that of Abel.”

We are approaching the heavenly Jerusalem — why are the angels in festal gathering? They see the glory of God, and that God is the beginning and end of everything. They owe their existence to the goodness of God, and they owe their joy to the realization that they forever have the privilege to view the ongoing glory and mercy of God. God is their everything, and they are so privileged just to be witnesses of that glory.

In the Gospel, we have another parable about taking seats at a banquet. Jesus is very much aware that His whole earthly ministry is about preparing guests for the eternal banquet of heaven. He isn’t really concerned about the proper protocol for the banquet.

He is concerned that everyone should have on the proper wedding garment when they come to the heavenly banquet. If they have graduated from living the Gospel He has given them, then they will be properly clothed in the heavenly values that can be celebrated for all eternity.

Our own proclivity to make ourselves something we are not, always wants to rob us of the poverty we need to welcome God into our lives. The evil one also enters into that all too human hunger for personal recognition.

Did you ever think of this: Gospel graduates are Satan’s failures? Heaven is populated with Satan’s failures! Gospel graduates did not take Satan’s bait to make something of themselves which really wasn’t genuine. Gospel graduates chose the last place in society. They chose suffering and humiliation. They chose misunderstanding and ridicule. They chose emptying themselves out for the sake of others. They chose humiliation. In short, they are willing to carry their cross all the way to the gates of St. Peter.

Right now in the Church we are undergoing a profound period of repentance and purification. This is not the time to line up with the self-righteous and point the finger at anyone in particular. No, we all are the problem. We are all sinners and we need to take ownership of our own sins and live a repentant life.

In the Gospel, Jesus tells us the place we are to take at table. We come to the table as servants of God.

Once the Egyptian monk Macarius was asked to meet two confreres at 9 a.m. where two paths crossed. They were to discern the case of another monk. When the two arrived, they looked for Macarius. As they looked down the trail they saw Macarius dragging a sack of rocks. They asked Macarius, “What do you have in that sack?” He responded: “I thought if we were to pass discernment on a fellow monk, I would bring my sins along!” Macarius knew his place at the table.

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