Musings on God’s Do’s and Don’ts of Attending/Hosting Banquets: Humility is Key
Before the month of August ends, it would be good to know that many of the readings for this month delve on the virtue of humility. While we have been hearing homilies of priests in our respective parishes on this matter, it is different when we go over and read the entire text of these Gospels to make sure we understand. Our Lord Jesus’ instruction on this particular Gospel (the 4rth Sunday of the month) on attitude of humility is very specific, straightforward, and still relevant even in this age and time, particularly on how to act with decorum when attending events and parties and on what to do when inviting guests to lunch or dinner, to wit: 1) “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor. A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him, and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place”; 2) “Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, My friend, move up to a higher position”; 3) “When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment; and 4) 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.”
Normally, the Gospel readings are in parables, some of which are relatively complex which would require experts and theologians to interpret them for us. But in this particular Gospel, Jesus speaks particularly about taking the lowest place, reminding us to embrace humility in our day to day life and to deal with people with mercy, love, and compassion. This is surreal because we are actually witnessing similar incidents in our daily activities, be it in official/business and unofficial gatherings, protocols are carefully observed, i.e. the VIP’s are given seats closer to the host. Similarly, during photo opportunities, the tendency of some of us is to position ourselves closer to the host. Have you encountered some embarrassing, humiliating or joyful moments similar to what Jesus had cited in the Gospel? In a meeting or any gathering for instance, have you positioned yourself at the back or from behind the scene but was called upon by the organizer for you to join and sit with the VIPs, even to the extent of acknowledging your presence? Or, is it the other way around, you positioned yourself among the heads but unfortunately you were eventually asked to give up your seat to a more important person? Even in our personal life, especially when holding parties, normally we only invite our family members and close friends, whether it’s a big or small gathering. We say, that’s human nature, and we have been used to this kind of arrangement for certain reasons, e.g. to have a comfy vibe and minimize stress.
We live in a world where there is anger and violence, where there is uncertainty and confusion and where there is unfriendly competition everywhere, thus may not be that easy to practice humility. In this modern and secular society, the virtue of humility is practically not at the heart of everyone’s psyche because by nature every human being has the tendency to be self-centered, to be esteemed and honored, to be praised and most of all to exalt oneself. Unfortunately, God rewards those who are humble, who share what they have and who show mercy and compassion to those in need. And so, we may have difficulty on this because self-love (loving ourselves and those whom we only want to love) may not be the kind of love that God wants us to have and share. God wants us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, and that’s one of His 2 greatest commandments. In this Gospel, Jesus said that “repayment” here on earth for good deeds is not important, but what He offers for us at the end of the day is the true reward that sanctifies our souls.
Thus, if we want to walk in the presence of God, we need to strive hard to be and stay humble because humility is worth the struggle as it is the key to God’s Kingdom. We are all being invited by God to join Him one day, only if we are truly humble. God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, in this particular Gospel is effectively offering us salvation, on the condition that we have to take the lowest place, and we have to show mercy and compassion to the least of our brethren, including our family members, neighbors or strangers. Thus, if we are still filled with or a tinge of pride and self-righteousness, taking an effort to change and improve ourselves is a prudent thing to do and it should start now.
In essence, our Lord Jesus Christ in this Gospel is conveying a strong message for us to shy away from the said practices because those are not very important in our spiritual life. For us to be closer to God, we are reminded by Jesus to consider the virtue of humility in everything we do, taking into account the plight of the disadvantaged and those in need, with emphasis on the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind. These are the people who need most of our help and the ones who have no chance or means to be invited in any event and who have no capacity to repay material things in return – and they are the people whom God is most closest to. In reality, we may not always (or not at all) be able to invite these people in our daily and family gatherings, but there are other ways and means to show our support to them, to show mercy and compassion, and to be kind to them. One way to show our love for our brothers and sisters in need is through volunteering in any activities that would help them in anyway we can. Or, probably instead of celebrating birthdays and anniversaries with family and friends, the funds to be used for the celebration can be donated to a charitable organization or you can instead celebrate the day with the elderly, the handicapped, or with the sick children in the hospital – but doing this humbly – without expecting anything in return.
Loving and generous God, thank you for reminding us, once again, about your precepts on humility. Help us to trust in ourselves and to trust in You completely. Please guide us Lord on how to serve you with humility and how to practice it with those in dire need. Lord God, please free us from our pride and from self-centeredness so that we will be able to better and humbly love and serve You and the needy. This we ask, in Jesus Mighty Name. Amen. O Holy Mary, our hope handmaid of the Lord, pray for us. Jesus, King of Mercy, we trust in You. Amen.