22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time ~ 28 August 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Sirach 3: 17-18, 20, 28-29; Responsorial: Psalm 68; II: Hebrews 12: 18-19, 22-24; Gospel: Luke 14:1, 7 -14
Where is my place? Where am I supposed to be? We all have been at banquets and meals and upon entering the room ask ourselves (and sometimes others) these questions. We like to know our place. Even if sometimes our presumptions about where we think we belong are mistaken. This is the heart of the parable Jesus shares with us today. The fact that our Lord shares this parable about this very problem shows us God understands we need to belong and we need to know where that place is, not just at a banquet but in life.
God understands this is about much more than a seating chart at some elegant dinner. It is about our life, our relationships, our faith, and our doubts and fears. Rare would be the person who has not struggled with these issues. Perhaps at school, at work, or in our faith community. The desire and need to belong are a part of our most basic humanity. Following the fall in the garden, the human soul has been searching for answers to these basic questions. But humanity and especially the temptor has not made this quest easy. And as people have grown, in many ways, further from God and each other this has become even more difficult. Many would be the reasons for this.
Sin, of course, separates us from God and each other. This is usually entangled with fears that are rooted in doubts that question the very Truths God would have us know, share, and bring us to our places in life. To frame this in, perhaps a more contemporary way, a very basic reason with finding and knowing where we belong is our:
It is so often when we get wrapped up in who we are (or think we are supposed to be), or where we think we should be in life, our relationships, and especially in our faith that we find ourselves struggling. The deception from our ego, telling us we are in charge, or we need to be in a particular place is like going through life focused upon a mirror. We often forget that in the mirror what we see is backward. So it is in life when SELF or EGO is our focus we get life all backward and confused. But upon prayerfully listening to our Scripture readings for this Mass we see a clear pattern of God’s wisdom to help us in our seeking to know and finding our place.
The first reading from the powerful Old Testament wisdom book of Sirach speaks with loving clarity and power. We, as a child of God, are to conduct our affairs with humility. As a child, there is, normally a great fascination and yearning to learn, to grow, to become. This is especially vital to keep in our hearts as a child of God. It is no coincidence that Jesus spoke numerous times that we are to have child-like faith. This child-like freedom brings us to a relationship where we trust God to show us the way, where we are going, and how to behave. We trust the Holy Spirit to show us where we belong. Presumption, either of a place beyond us or below where we should be (pride and the unkind twin, false humility) is in conflict with the grace-filled place of humility. When we accept life isn’t about us we grow in a freedom to simply live and be in our moments. With God. With each other. And within God’s creation.
As we grow in the dynamic graces of humility we cannot help but grow in recognizing the times and places when we fail each other and God. We live through humbling times of struggling with sin. Especially as a child of God, it hurts when we fail our heavenly Father and our sisters and brothers in Christ. But that is part of the journey. It is a place we are called to share with each other. And before God. As God’s children, we gather at Mass and we begin every time in God’s peace that brings us to the Rite of Reconciliation. It is there we share the humbling, holy words: “I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and what I have failed to do…” It is in that holy, humbling place of confessing we have sinned we are brought by the angels of God to the place of God’s mercy! And it is expedient to remember this most deeply is experienced in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is in God’s arms of mercy we are learn we are called to be a people and a place of God’s mercy. It is from this holy pilgrimmage as pilgrims of penance (on-growing conversion) that we grow in those holy places of mercy. It is in the grace-fillied responsorial psalm we see and understand the longing of God for kindness, compassion and healing justice in our world. This is especially expressed to the poor, the homeless, the hungary, prisoner and naked. And it is so needed for us to remember that while this applies to the physical, material needs it also applies to those struggling with spiritual poverty, those seeking a home for their soul or that are bound in inner chains.
It is as we recognize that we belong in the places of humility and mercy we enter into another place that God would have us cherish. It is in the place of reverence. The more we experience the freedom of true humility and healing mercy the greater our ability becomes to share in unpretentious, simple but profound reverence before God. The writer of Hebrews in our second reading describes the heavenly Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem. It is only hinted at in the clumsy ways of words the indescribable beauty, splendor, and holy awe that is our heavenly home. Artists, poets, preachers have all sought to show the splendor that is God’s Kingdom, that is God. But we must, with deep humility say, our vision is veiled. Our spritual sense are so restricted. this side of eternity because we cannot, in these earthly vessels contain the majestic holy love that is our God. Yet our heavenly Father, in great love would bring us to be growing in that grace of holy reverence. So great are the joys and beauties He has prepared for us that God longs for us to come and grow in the places oh reverence. This is ofe course in our liturgy, at Mass. This may be a simple sharing of a weekday Mass. It may be in a Sunday Mass of Ordinary Time that the words, a song, prayers will open your eyes and heart…to Him. But let us remember to celebrate the holy, with ever-growing reverence, the ordinary. A sunset, a flower or a dog being silly with the joy of life, each is a place of the holy. And it is very much in each other that we discover and exoerience deep reverence. If we will allow God’s Spirit to lead us. St Francis of Assisi found his place of beginning and growing conversion where he least expected it. Francis feared and disdained the lepers near Assisi. Like all healthy people he avoided them with active devotion. Until God lead him to where he belonged. It was on the day that Francis encountered a leper and instead of running away he, with trepidation, went up, embraced the leper and kissed the leprous face. On the lips. It was then Francis was overwhelmed with and intensity of reverence as he realized he had kissed Jesus.
Our Gospel proclaims this quest, this struggle we all share as we seek to find our place, to find where we belong. It is the gentle, eternal light of God’s Word, of Jesus, The Truth, The Way, The Life, who will show us these steps we must take. God will lead us from the false security and promises of our ego and onward in steps of humility, mercy, and reverence. It is as we follow Him we discover we don’t belong to a place, a career, or a thing. We belong with each other, with God in humble mercy, reverence, and love.