Sir 3:17-18; Heb 12:18-19, 22-24; Luke 14:1,7-14
Highs and lows in the readings today. Humility (Sirach) and the heights of Mount Zion (Hebrews) and both in the Gospel of Luke. Whether we are in the lowest place or the highest place, we are the Lord’s.
Be # 1. This is an expression for our desire to win, to be first. Being #1 is engrained in American life. The point of being #1 is to feel powerful, Godlike. In the film Titanic, Jack Dawson, mounts the ship’s rail at the prow and proclaims: “I’m King of the world!” There is a part of him in all of us. It’s a way of saying: “I am God.” The Greeks called it: hubris, a.k.a. full of oneself. That’s also part of the original sin. Our native gifts are from God, not from ourselves. If we are too puffed up, we can take a tumble from that ship’s rail. That’s the Gospel message today. The clear warning in Sirach and in Luke’s gospel is not hubris but humility. Humility means “of the earth.” If we are not ‘down to earth’ or have our feet on the ground, we can fall and land in the lowest place. It’s what we call reversal of fortune. It’s what happens to the tragic heroes in the great dramas we read in high school and college – Julius Caesar, Macbeth, Oedipus. Even to Jack Dawson in Titanic. We can identify setbacks in our own lives. The job we didn’t get. The job we lost. The exam we failed. Broken health. Broken marriages, broken friendships. All of these are reversals in our lives. They bring us low. BUT Can these low places lead us higher? Can they lead us closer to God? It’s about relationship. We turn to God to lead us higher. We learn humility. We learn again that we aren’t God. We learn again how much we need God. We learn again how much we need the community for support, for strength. Again, it’s about relationship.
Part two of today’s Gospel passage is about how we use our gifts. Our gifts are from God. We put them at the service of the community. They’re not just for us. We can choose ‘the lowest place’ by serving God in God’s people, the community, the needy. The Christian Life Center needs canned goods and clothing to help care for our homeless population in Harrodsburg and Mercer County. (See this wicker basket? It lives in the narthex at the foot of Christ’s Cross, the crucifix.)
Pope Francis has said: Reach out…to the needy, he said “and your heart will begin to grow bigger, bigger and bigger.” Giving our gifts extends us, stretches us to the highest place, to God, who is # 1, in first place, in the highest place. Isn’t that why we sing: “Glory to God in the highest”??