All are invited to the Banquet!
One of the most noticeable changes with recent times to our California landscape has been the introduction of wind turbines in our deserts and on many hilly areas throughout our State. At heights reaching over 80 meters, many are placed on exposed, elevated heights, so they need really good foundations to ensure that they remain firmly standing. Sometimes, a wind turbine needs a foundation almost as deep as it is tall. So, it is a metaphor for having a good firm foundation and being well rooted, especially when we reach for the heights.
Today’s Readings are about humility. Humility means to be well rooted, to be grounded in the truth of who we are, where we come from and the heights of holiness and selfless love to which we are called to ascend. Humility gives us a good foundation in whatever path we choose to follow in life.
Jesus tells his disciples to make their way to the lowest places so that they may have have a good foundation in what is the realization of our common shared humanity with every person, no matter what his or her standing is in life. Our lives will then be rooted in the deepest truth of this life, that of the primary importance of love of God and of neighbor.
In a way similar to a wind turbine’s need for deep foundations, we can listen to the advice of Saint Augustine, who wrote: “Do you wish to rise? Then begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.”
In today’s Gospel, Jesus uses the image of a great banquet to explain God’s vision for our world. He speaks of a place where those who consider themselves entitled to the highest seats at the table take the low seats. He urges us to invite the poor, the lame and the blind to this celebration. Jesus encourages us to turn the world upside down in a reversal, an upheavel, where the preferred option is for the poor and those considered least in society.
Today is an important day, as we begin the Season of Creation (from September 1st until the Feast of Saint Francis on October 4th). Pope Francis asks all Christians to embrace this season in prayer, in living more sustainably and in raising our voices in the public sphere. We are invited to think more deeply about what is happening at present to the Earth, the environmental destruction which now threatens our world, our common home. The theme this year is ‘The Web of Life.’ The most vulnerable among us are suffering most deeply as this web of life begins to unravel. Our faith calls us to respond to this crisis with urgency. Let us hear the Gospel message today, where we are called to consider those on the margins, including those most at risk from climate change, and let us commit to working towards a world where all are seated at the banquet.
Back to today’s Gospel…. the parable brings out two contrasting experiences, but each in its own way can be a moment of grace, a moment of truth, a moment of growth. We may be able to recall such experiences in our own lives. In the first (verses 8, 9) we discover that we had claimed a place that is too high for us; we are not as selfless, generous or compassionate as we thought we were. In the second (verse 10), others point out a goodness in ourselves that we may not have acknowledged to ourselves. How have we grown through such experiences?
In verses 12-14, Jesus warns us against the danger of ulterior motives in doing good. We can do good things partly because of the benefit we will get from what we do. That is natural but can lead to disappointment and resentment when our expectations are not met. When the good deed in itself is our reward then we have a greater freedom. Praise will be a bonus, but is not necessary. What does our life experience tell us about this?