The spotlight on this Sunday ’s Gospel is upon the virtue of humility. We know what the Gospel says about this virtue: seek the last place! But, if we ponder a worldview, what do we observe about this good act of not putting oneself first in actual practice?
Luke states very clearly, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, everyone who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke’s narrative uses the parable of a wedding banquet where social status is prime regarding seating at table. But, in Jesus’s way, the experience should be counter-cultural. Jesus asks us to invite all those on the margins of society so we cannot be reciprocated in any manner of payment!
As I was thinking about humility, it brought me to the mystery of the Incarnation. When God the Father sends Jesus, His only-begotten Son, to become human, it is a manifestation of His abundant generosity to give us eternal life. As my favorite poet, Emily Dickinson, puts it: “He stooped down / Christ stooped until He touched the Grave.” Thus, Emily sums up his thirty-three years between the stable birth and Crucifixion. God made one long stoop to the grave. Inherently, Emily argues, God must stoop since God has nowhere else to go but down!
We are also reminded of this in the Letter to the Hebrews: Though He was in the form of God He humbled Himself to death, death on the Cross. And so God highly exalted Him. Then comes the Resurrection when Jesus rises up, as will we, on the last day!
Luke further says, “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.”
Hasn’t our Pope Francis himself as our Pontiff stooped down to embrace and love God’s Anouim? Has not our Pope invited us to do likewise? To stoop downward to leave our life of ease and relative luxury and embrace the homeless person, the recovering addict, invite the jobless for a meal, listen to the lonely, in this Year of Mercy? Francis invites us to revisit the Corporal Acts of Mercy and practice the more difficult Spiritual Acts of Mercy and look at these works through twenty-first century eyes. Now that’s true humility! We need to stoop down so we can rise up on the last day to the joyful words, “Come my faithful servant and enter the Kingdom of God!”
Sister Monica Socinski, O.P. is a Diamond Jubilarian, ’56.