domenica 28 agosto 2016

«Humilia te!»

Today’s liturgy is an invitation for us to humility. In the first reading, the son of Sirach urges us to be humble, if we want to be loved by God and by people. Actually, humility is the best attitude to be accepted by others, even by those who are not humble. Beautiful is the verse: “Humble yourself (humilia te) the more, the greater you are.” Humility is not only for the poor, but for all, especially for the VIP’s. Indeed, celebrities are those most in need of humility. Greatness and humility are directly proportional to each other: the greater you are, the more you must humble yourself. Humility is synonymous with truth: each one should acknowledge their own real condition, even their greatness, if any; but always remembering that whatever we have and whatever we are does not depend on us, but is a gift we have received and are answerable for.

Today’s gospel is very interesting. Jesus has been invited to dinner by one of the chief Pharisees. Luke points out that “the people there were observing him carefully.” He does not specify whether with a good or a bad intention—it is more probable the latter... Anyway, Jesus cannot be ignored: all are observing him. But Jesus is no less so; he also is an observant person, who watches what is happening around him. And so he notices that those people, who are observing him, are choosing the places of honor at the table. He does that not to take revenge on them, but to teach them a salutary lesson. He does not mean to teach them etiquette, that is how to proceed when they are invited to a dinner; he is teaching them the virtue of humility. The wedding banquet is just a parable, that is a metaphor for life: life cannot be considered as a race for the first places. Jesus invites us to “take the lowest place,” because only doing so we can be invited to move up to a higher position. Watch out! Jesus is not teaching us a trick to get more honor; he does not invite us to pretend to be humble, but to be really humble. The esteem of companions mentioned in the parable is just an image of the glory which awaits us in the world to come. Jesus’ words “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” do not refer to this life, but to eternal life.

Jesus’ teachings do not end here: he has a lesson in store even for his host. In this case, the lesson is about disinterestedness. Jesus urges him not to invite people who can reciprocate his invitation, but rather the poor, unable to repay him. Of course, it is just a parable. It means: even in doing good, there could be some self-interest, not necessarily a financial profit, but just the search for the others’ approval. Good should be done for itself, not for the advantages it can provide to us. This does not mean that the good we do does not merit a reward. The problem is that we should not expect in this life the recompense for the good we were able to do. Jesus says: “You will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

In both cases—the guests who rush to grab the best seats and the host who invites his friends to be invited back—there is a search for oneself. Humility means exactly the opposite: to forget ourselves and to entrust ourselves only to God; in him alone we will find favor.

PS: The Sunday homilist takes his holiday. He will be back, God willing, on the first Sunday of October. God bless!