When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor. For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted. (Luke 14: 8, 11)
Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous. (Luke 14: 13-14)
When I meditated on these two parables from St. Luke’s Gospel, I thought about the recent invitations to wedding banquets I received after the pandemic “pause”. When I attended my first wedding celebration recently, I felt somewhat disoriented by the large crowd and out of practice with the social etiquette, and honestly somewhat out of sorts.
Jesus attended many traditional Jewish wedding banquets with his disciples (who can forget the Wedding of Cana!) So as I pondered these two parables in light of attending wedding banquets and hosting dinner parties again, I knew Jesus was teaching much more than social etiquette. I also knew that Jesus was not teaching a strategy to get honored while all the while looking humble.
The phrase “reading the room” came to mind. Maybe the lesson here was to learn to “read the room” through the eyes of Jesus.
In our secular world, “reading the room” is defined as: to understand or be sensitive to the mood or feelings of a group of people that one is addressing or engaging with. However, in our secular world, this can often be misused to one’s own purpose and for self-gain.
Jesus is turning this definition upside-down; his “reading of the room” is an invitation to humility, which can only be done with the mind of Christ and through the eyes of Christ.
What Does Jesus’ Invitation to Humility Look Like?
- Take the lowest place
- Never consider yourself more important than anyone else
- Be like a little child
- Know that you need God’s mercy as much as the greatest sinner on earth.
- Open your heart to the suffering of others
St. Therese of Lisieux looked at the world through the eyes of Christ. Her “little way” of reading the room didn’t just mean doing little, hidden, humble acts of charity for others in the name of Jesus, without expecting anything in return. It was much more than this – it’s doing these things by emptying ourselves, allowing God’s grace to work through us so what we are doing is drawing others to God and not to ourselves. In other words, it’s not about us, it’s about HIM!
A Papal Reflection
A reflection of Pope Francis on these two parables focuses on place and attitude.
“Jesus’s words emphasize completely different and opposing attitudes: the attitude of those who choose their own place and the attitude of those who allow God to assign their place and await a reward from him. God gives us a much greater place than that which people give us! The place that God gives us is close to his heart and his reward is eternal life.”
When we allow God to choose our place, there are limitless possibilities of where He may lead us. The wedding banquet that Jesus speaks of is our life in Christ, and he promises that he will lift up those who approach their life with humility.
Pope Francis goes on to say that the second parable points out the attitude of selflessness that ought to characterize hospitality. “Jesus shows his preference for the poor and the excluded, who are the privileged in the kingdom of God, and he launches the fundamental message of the gospel which is to serve others out of love for God.”
His words remind me of the attitude of hospitality I should offer to all the people God places in my life and in every setting – at Mass, at church functions, family gatherings, the grocery store … everywhere!
Do I show a preference for the poor by “reading the room” through the eyes of Christ and notice those who may need a smile of encouragement, a listening ear, or a hug?
Do I gravitate only to my friends in social settings rather than reach out to the lonely, the bereaved, or the stranger?
Jesus’ invitation to humility is challenging but oh, so rewarding!
The greater you are, the more you must humble yourself so you will find favor with God.
Debbie Garza is a parishioner of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Leon Springs, and is an experienced Pilgrimage Group Leader with Pilgrim Center of Hope. She has traveled with Pilgrim Center of Hope to the Holy Land, Italy, and Greece. She says, “On pilgrimage, I know the ears and eyes of my heart have been opened by God’s grace and I’ve experienced the Joy of the Gospel. I am committed to helping other pilgrims experience their personal journey of faith.” Debra is also a member of Pilgrim Center of Hope’s Speaker Team.
Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life. See what’s happening & let us journey with you! Visit PilgrimCenterOfHope.org.