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Musings on Jesus’ Timeless Lessons: Dining with the Heart, Not Just Meals! – Forget the “Who”, Embrace the “How”

In our busy lives, we often hear homilies from priests in our respective parishes, offering insights into the teachings of Jesus. However, there’s something profoundly impactful about delving into the Gospel texts ourselves. In particular, the message from Jesus in the series of Gospel readings of late (shared with us today and for the past 2 days) strongly resonated with me. These readings focus on the virtue of humility coupled with compassion, kindness and sincerity, and all these remain relevant in our modern age, guiding us on how to conduct ourselves with decorum in various social settings, from events and parties to hosting guests for meals, among others, emphasizing certain key principles, as follows:

Avoiding the Place of Honor: When attending a wedding banquet or any gathering, Jesus advises against seeking the place of honor. He warns that a more distinguished guest may have been invited, and the host might ask you to give up your seat. This situation could lead to embarrassment. The lesson here is clear: choose humility over the pursuit of prestige.

Taking the Lowest Place: Instead, Jesus encourages us to take the lowest place. By doing so, the host may recognize your humility and invite you to a higher position. This principle teaches us the value of modesty and the rewards of being sincere and unshowy.

Inviting the Marginalized: When hosting a lunch or dinner, Jesus advises against only inviting friends, relatives, or wealthy neighbors. Instead, He suggests inviting the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. This act of inclusivity, without expecting repayment, is a powerful demonstration of compassion.

Leaders to follow servant leadership: Jesus encourages his followers to prioritize serving others and to consider themselves as brothers and sisters rather than seeking hierarchical titles like “Rabbi” or “Master.” In today’s world, this concept remains highly relevant. Leaders must prioritize the well-being of their constituents and the greater good.

Anticipating Eternal Rewards: Jesus emphasizes that the repayment we receive on Earth for our good deeds is not the ultimate goal. Instead, He promises a true reward that transcends this life, one that sanctifies our souls and awaits us in the hereafter.

These teachings stand out in the Gospel because they are straightforward and specifically address humility in our daily lives. They highlight the importance of approaching people with compassion, love, and mercy.

In our contemporary world, we often witness scenarios similar to those described in the Gospel. In both official and unofficial gatherings for instance, protocols dictate that VIPs are given prominent seats, and during photo opportunities, there’s a natural inclination to position oneself closer to the host. Have you ever experienced moments like those cited in the Gospel? Perhaps we’ve found ourselves unexpectedly invited to join VIPs, or, conversely, been asked to yield our seats to someone of greater importance. That would be embarrasing, right? These situations are not uncommon and offer us opportunities to practice the humility Jesus teaches.

In our lives, whether it’s a big celebration or a small gathering, we typically invite close friends and family. This might be considered human nature, as it creates a comfortable and stress-free environment. However, Jesus’s message encourages us to broaden our circles of compassion and extend invitations to those who are often marginalized and in need.

In a world marred by anger, violence, uncertainty, and pervasive competition, embracing humility may not be the easiest of endeavors. Our modern and secular society often places humility on the periphery of our collective consciousness. By our very nature, humans tend to lean towards self-centeredness, the pursuit of esteem, and the desire for praise and self-exaltation. Yet, the paradox is that God reserves His greatest rewards for those who practice humility, share what they have, and extend mercy and compassion to those in need.

In these Gospel readings, Jesus urges us to understand that earthly “repayment” for our good deeds is of secondary significance. The true reward, one that sanctifies our souls and promises eternal fulfillment, transcends the material world.

Therefore, if we seek to walk in the presence of God and ultimately join Him, we must earnestly strive to cultivate and maintain humility coupled with compassion and kindness. Humility is primary key to God’s Kingdom, and it is worth the effort. God’s invitation to be with Him, as conveyed by our Lord Jesus Christ in this Gospel, is contingent upon our ability to embrace the lowest place and to exhibit mercy and compassion toward the least among us, whether they are family members, neighbors, or strangers. If we still harbor traces of pride and self-righteousness, it is prudent to embark on a journey of transformation and self-improvement, starting now. Remember, it is better to start late than never.

In essence, Jesus’s message in this Gospel calls upon us to move away from practices that hold little spiritual significance. He reminds us to prioritize the virtue of humility in every aspect of our lives, showing special consideration for the less fortunate, especially the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. These are the individuals who require our support the most, and who lack opportunities or means to participate in events or reciprocate material gestures. God’s proximity to those in need underscores their importance in His eyes.

In reality, we may not always have the chance to invite these individuals to our family gatherings, but there are alternative ways to express our solidarity, show mercy, and extend compassion. Volunteering for activities that aid the less fortunate is a powerful means of expressing our love for our brothers and sisters in need. Additionally, we can redirect the funds typically spent on personal celebrations, such as birthdays or anniversaries, towards charitable organizations, or choose to celebrate these occasions with the elderly, the handicapped, or hospitalized children, doing so humbly and without expecting any material returns.

In a related Gospel reading, our Lord Jesus Christ is also reminding us of instances where individuals (e.g., politicians, etc.) may use titles and honorifics like “His Excellency” or “Honorable” but fail to live up to the ethical standards and expectations associated with those titles. This can be seen as a form of hypocrisy if their actions and behaviors don’t align with the virtues they are meant to represent. Note that genuine leadership is characterized by service, humility, and ethical behavior, and these qualities are valued by the public. As Jesus taught, leaders must not only bear titles but must also live up to the values and virtues associated with them.

Indeed, let’s exert our best efforts to live up to the aforementioned Jesus timeless lessons and teachings, by forgetting the ‘who,’ and embracing the ‘how’, and most of all, practicing the virtue of humility and sincerity, showing/sharing kindness and compassion (not just the meals, so to speak!).

In conclusion, we say this heartfelt prayer: We beseech our loving and generous God to continually remind us of the significance of humility. May You guide us in placing our trust both in ourselves and in You. We humbly seek Your guidance on how to serve with humility, especially in our interactions with those in dire need. We implore You Lord to free us from the clutches of pride and self-centeredness, enabling us to love and serve You and the needy with genuine humility. We humbly offer this prayer in Your mighty name. Amen.

O Holy Mary, our hope and handmaid of the Lord, pray for us. Jesus, King of Mercy, we trust in You. Amen.

ctto: Thank you for the featured photo.

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