22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, cycle C

1st Reading – Sirach 3: 17-18, 20, 28-29

Sirach is the longest of the wisdom books with 51 chapters.  It is a mixture of proverbs and lengthy essays on major themes within the wisdom tradition:  use of speech, self-control, the value of work, etc.  Unlike Proverbs, it tends to group many sayings on the same topic close together.  The author identifies himself (Ben Sira) at the end of chapter 50, but luckily his grandson translated the original into Greek and wrote a preface which helps date the book to 190-175 BC.  It was thought that it was all in Greek but portions were found in Hebrew.  It is not a book accepted in the Jewish canon or the Protestant Bible (Reading the Old Testament, Boadt, p. 486-487).  Think about the passing on of wisdom and faith through the generations.

From Exploring the Sunday Readings, Sept.2, 2007:

Genuine humility has nothing to do with praising others or putting ourselves down. Humus means earth; humility means remembering that we are dust – yet dust that God has taken and breathed into it his very life. When we are humble we are filled with gratitude and are at peace in God’s presence. We can use our talents with great energy; but we do not have to be everything to everyone. Nor, do we have to be noticed, applauded, or extolled. Can you think of an example of when you have had to “eat humble pie”?

2nd Reading – Hebrews 12: 18-19, 22-24

This reading is highlighting the contrast between the law (Mount Sinai) and the salvation we find in Christ (Mount Zion).  What sense do you make of this reading?

From John Kavanaugh, “The Word Engaged,” http://liturgy.slu.edu:

Some see God as unapproachable as the highest mountain, or an all-consuming fire, or an abyss of impenetrable darkness, or a booming, terrifying voice. But the God we find in Christ is a loving parent, a merciful judge. His mountain is full of life and light and festivity. Come! We will be made whole.

From Exploring the Sunday Readings, Sept.2, 2007:

These two images of God battle for our attention. Is our God fearful, powerful, brooding, and potentially wrathful?   Or, is God approachable, beautiful, and delightful? Do you feel like plugging your ears and closing your eyes before God due to fear? Or, do you find yourself joining in a song of joy and peace in God’s presence? Moses once stood in the presence of God; his face shone with a brilliant light. Yet, the rest of the community nearly died of fright. What we see and experience in the presence of God may have more to do with us than with God. If we are open and trusting in the divine presence, we may be surprised by the joy we find. But if we are closed by fear and self-defensive, self-righteous attitudes, we may find trouble.

The Gospel – Luke 14: 1, 7-14

From John Kavanaugh, “The Word Engaged,” http://liturgy.slu.edu:

Jesus is not offering some lesson in courtly etiquette. He is talking about the real problem of ego-enhancement – self-promotion. Both the guests and host – and us? – have this problem. Elite house parties, in Jesus’ time or in our own, are honored by the best and brightest who attend. But besides this, Jesus is also speaking to people who want to ‘test’ him – even trap him. He is talking to them in the only language they understand, the logic of self-enhancement. He wants them to see that even on their own terms their tactics are self-defeating.

From John Pilch, “Historical Cultural Context,” http://liturgy.slu.edu:

In Jesus’ times, meals were very powerful means of communication. They affirmed a person’s role and status in a given community. Luke tells us that Jesus is invited by a leading Pharisee – but also that he is watched closely by the host and his guests. The word that is used for watching implies a very hostile observation. Their apparently honorable invitation may not have been quite so honorable. Jesus responds to this hostility with a story, a parable. Jesus is using their logic to turn their world upside down. Accepting an invitation to dinner came with obligation. Reciprocity was expected. Jesus’ advice to his host was shocking, and perhaps quite insulting and rude.

(A guest was never to tell a host how to be a host!) But Jesus wants to shock them and us into realizing that only God can confer ‘true’ honor. In Jesus we find a God who will personally reward the host who has been gracious to those unable to return such graciousness. Pharisees believed in Resurrection. Having set a trap for Jesus, they find themselves trapped — and their world rather topsy-turvy.

From Joan Chittister’s, Illuminated Life (p. 56):  “I am not everything I could be.  I am not even the fullness of myself, let alone a pinnacle for which my family, my friends, my world, the universe should strive.  I am only me.  I am weak often, struggling always, arrogant sometimes, hiding from myself most of the time, and always in some kind of need.  I cover my limitations with flourish, of course, but down deep, where the soul is forced to confront itself, I know who I really am and what, on the other hand, however fine the image, I really am not.  Then the Rule of Benedict says, we are ready for union with God.”

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