22nd Sunday of Cycle C

The first reading is from Ecclesiasticus (3:17-29 passim) also called the Book of Sirach.  The Wisdom of (ben) Sirach is also sometimes called the Wisdom of Jesus, son of Sirach; it is what is called a deutero-canonical book because its status as part of the canon (or official collection) of Scripture was not recognised by Jews resident in Israel; though Sirach was used by Jewish scholars and is included in the early Greek version of the Jewish Bible (the Septuagint) and it is included in Catholic bibles.  This wisdom about how to live good lives pleasing to God is expressed so beautifully and simply in our reading.  This proverbial wisdom speaks to us even today in our different situations.

The second reading from Hebrews (12:18-24 passim) really sets one thinking about how we view God and our response to Him.  The author refers to how the Jews at first encountered God; it was a frightening experience of fire and terror; He was a mighty and powerful God and they were His people.  But the author then wants to tell them to leave this behind because as followers of the Way of Jesus they now should see God differently; now they are approaching heaven, the ideal Jerusalem, where God’s Son, Jesus, has set up a new covenant – a new relationship with God – and the unbelievable is possible.

The gospel we have for today (Luke 14:7-14) is introduced with verse 1: “On a Sabbath Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully.”  Meals were an important social occasion for the host; at a meal he could make friends with the most influential people and show off the grandeur of his living; for those invited (travelling on the Sabbath) it was an opportunity to become closer to influential people and so progress in one’s standing in society.

Jesus challenges them, pointing out how they will break a Sabbath law when it suits THEM and they are constantly looking for ways to promote themselves.  Of course, they could come to the meal and take a lowly position in the hope of being promoted but Jesus would point out that their motive is still self-promotion.  C.S. Lewis wisely once said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”  Jesus challenges religious authority to practise true humility and make those on the margins their priority. The challenge remains as fresh now as it was then.

Jesus’ parable is about our relationship with God and the religious way we should live; because of our humility we should not expect reward although we believe in the grace of God.  So here, as in the passage from Hebrews in the second reading, the message is about the contrast between one way of life and the way it should be for Christians, whose righteousness comes from God and for whom self-righteousness, as of the Pharisees, is not the way forward: you cannot deserve or earn salvation and God’s love.

See Jeffs Jottings – You have come to God!

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