Humility isn’t possible in a void; we can only be humble in relation to other. And it is to humility that Jesus calls us in this Sunday’s Gospel from Luke. Invited to dine with a Pharisee, Jesus offers those in attendance a lesson on the proper conduct at a banquet: 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.’ True, Jesus is addressing those who were (literally) choosing the places of honor at the table. But the relevance of his message is far greater, applicable not only to the meal at hand, but also to the marvelously evocative festal gathering described in the Letter to the Hebrews: the ultimate fulfillment of the covenant God has long promised to God’s people, and the final banquet with God in the heavenly Jerusalem. In other words, we are called to humility in our relationship with God and other.
Why take the lowest place? Well, first, humility helps us to find favor with God, as the Book of Sirach reminds us, and thus to be loved more than a giver of gifts. But the key to being truly humble is to recognize that you are not alone, that you are part of a greater entity; humility is precisely that capacity within ourselves that allows us to open our hearts and see others – and to see God – as necessary to our existence, to acknowledge and appreciate our dependence. For it is when we recognize our own brokenness that we can be fully open to God’s loving action – the bountiful rain of the Psalm – working in our lives, and thus open those very lives to other, all others -- in fulfillment of the new etiquette that is Jesus' word.
This post is based on Fr. Pat's Scripture class.