POPE FRANCIS ON THE 22ND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C
Saint Peter’s Square
22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C, 1 September 2019
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
First of all, I have to apologize for my delay but there was a mishap: I was detained in the elevator for 25 minutes! There was a drop in tension and the lift stopped. Thank God the firefighters came — I thank them very much! — and after working for 25 minutes they were able to get it going. A round of applause for the firefighters!
This Sunday’s Gospel passage (cf. Lk 14:7-14) shows us Jesus participating in a feast in the house of one of the head Pharisees. Jesus watches and observes how the guests run, make haste to get the best seats. It is rather common behaviour in our time too, and not only when we are invited to lunch: one frequently seeks a place of honour in order to assert a presumed superiority over others. In reality this race to the forefront harms both civil and ecclesial communities because it destroys fraternity. We all know these people: social climbers who always clamber upwards in order to move up, up…. They harm fraternity, they damage fraternity. Faced with this scene, Jesus recounts two short parables.
The first parable is addressed to one who is invited to a feast and Jesus exhorts him not to “sit down in a place of honour, lest a more eminent man than you be invited by him; and he who invited you both will come, and say to you, ‘Please, move back, give place to this man’”. An embarrassment! And “then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place” (cf. vv. 8-9). Jesus instead teaches us to behave in the opposite way: “when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher’” (v. 10). Thus, we should not seek the attention and regard of others on our own initiative but, if anything, let others offer them to us. Jesus always shows us the way of humility — we must learn the way of humility! — because it is the most authentic way, which also allows one to enjoy authentic relationships. True humility, not false humility, the kind they call in Piedmont, mugna quacia. No, not that kind. True humility.
In the second parable, Jesus addresses the one who invites and, referring to the method of selecting guests, says to him: “when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you” (vv. 13-14). Here too, Jesus goes completely against the tide, manifesting as always, the logic of God the Father. And he also adds the key by which to interpret this discourse of his. And what is the key? A promise: if you do this, you “will be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (v. 14). This means that those who behave in this way will receive divine compensation, far superior to human repayment: I do this favour for you expecting you to do one for me. No, this is not Christian. Humble generosity is Christian. Indeed, human repayment usually distorts relationships, making them “commercial” by bringing personal interest into a relationship that should be generous and free. Instead, Jesus encourages selfless generosity, to pave our way toward a much greater joy, the joy of partaking in the very love of God who awaits us, all of us, at the heavenly banquet.
May the Virgin Mary, “humble beyond all creatures and more exalted” (Dante, Paradiso, xxxiii, 2), help us to recognize ourselves as we are, that is, small; and to give joyfully, without repayment.
Saint Peter’s Square
22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C, 28 August 2016
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
In the scene from today’s Gospel passage, Jesus, in the home of one of the chief Pharisees, observes that the guests at lunch rush to choose the first place. It is a scene that we have seen so often: seeking the best place even “with our elbows”. Observing this scene, Jesus shares two short parables, and with them two instructions: one concerning the place, and the other concerning the reward.
The first analogy is set at a wedding banquet. Jesus says: “When you are invited by any one to a marriage feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest a more eminent man than you be invited by him; and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man’, and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place” (Lk 14:8-9). With this recommendation, Jesus does not intend to give rules of social behaviour, but rather a lesson on the value of humility. History teaches that pride, careerism, vanity and ostentation are the causes of many evils. And Jesus helps us to understand the necessity of choosing the last place, that is, of seeking to be small and hidden: humility. When we place ourselves before God in this dimension of humility, God exalts us, he stoops down to us so as to lift us up to himself; “For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (v. 11).
Jesus’ 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 it and await a reward from Him. Let us not forget this: God pays much more than men do! He gives us a much greater place than that which men give us! The place that God gives us is close to his heart and his reward is eternal life. “You will be blessed”, Jesus says, “you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (v. 14).
This is what is described in the second parable, in which Jesus points out the attitude of selflessness that ought to characterize hospitality, and he says: “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you” (vv. 13-14). This means choosing gratuitousness rather than self-seeking and calculating to obtain a reward, seeking interest and trying to increase your wealth. Indeed, the poor, the simple, those who ‘don’t count’, can never reciprocate an invitation to a meal. In this way 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. Today, Jesus gives voice to those who are voiceless, and to each one of us he addresses an urgent appeal to open our hearts and to make our own the sufferings and anxieties of the poor, the hungry, the marginalized, the refugees, those who are defeated by life, those who are rejected by society and by the arrogance of the strong. And those who are discarded make up the vast majority of the population.
At this time, I think with gratitude of the soup kitchens where many volunteers offer their services, giving food to people who are alone, in need, unemployed or homeless. These soup kitchens and other works of mercy — such as visiting the sick and the imprisoned — are a training ground for charity that spreads the culture of gratuity, as those who work in these places are motivated by God’s love and enlightened by the wisdom of the Gospel. In this way serving others becomes a testimony of love, which makes the love of Christ visible and credible.
Let us ask the Virgin Mary, who was humble throughout her whole life, to lead us every day along the way of humility, and to render us capable of free gestures of welcome and solidarity with those who are marginalized, so as to become worthy of the divine reward.
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