At the end of our journey together, the closing chapter of the 105-year story of St. Pat’s.
Soon we will step over the threshold into a great unknown.
But Jesus is with us today and forever. And Jesus promises us all new life. Now we need to hold on tight to that promise.
We are collectively in a place of vulnerability.
Thankfully, mercifully, this weekend’s readings are perfectly crafted for us, with a divine message from our creator about how we are to approach our next journeys.
In our first reading from Sirach, we hear we are to,
“conduct (our) affairs with
and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts. Humble (oneself) the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God.”
It is as if the message is coming to us “from Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem and countless angels in festal gathering” are watching over our final day together.
Then Jesus speaks to us through the Gospel to reminds us,
“For every one who exalts himself (or herself) will be humbled, but the one who humbles (herself or) himself will be exalted."
Here’s what he said,
“Christ humbled Himself, therefore God exalted Him. Christ will humble us, and keep us humble; let us heartily consent, let us trustfully and joyfully accept all that humbles; the power of Christ will (then) rest upon us. We shall find that the deepest humility is the secret to truest happiness, of a joy that nothing can destroy.”
In our Gospel story today, Jesus is helping us to understand what humility looks like in our human world.
As Luke’s Gospel puts it, the guests had Jesus under close scrutiny. These are people who held grudges against Jesus and were lying in wait for him to slip up and say something they could persecute him with.
To add insult to injury, this is the Sabbath and a few moments before today’s Gospel passage, Jesus cured a man on the Sabbath, a no-no in Jesus’ world.
But Jesus seizes the moment to feed our souls with an important lesson in humility.
Not as people believing ourselves worthy of something, but as people who are totally dependent on the mercy of God for our very being, for every gift in our life, and for our potential future entrance into heaven.
Webster’s Dictionary defines humility as:
“The quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people”
In God’s eyes, we are humble when we are free of pride, arrogance, and self-reliance.
God desires us to not think of ourselves as better than others.
That thinking only generates bitterness and division. And can lead to embarrassment when overstepping our place with God and with our brothers and sisters.
In other words, if we walk around with our noses up in the air, we may fall flat on our faces.
One bible scholar said the Mediterranean world in Jesus’ time was an honor/shame-based culture and “the social gaffe of overstepping one’s station, such as Jesus describes, would have been a mortifying experience.”
But he says this “points to the proper disposition toward God and how we define our need for God’s salvation in our lives. Social self-inflation is equated with spiritual self-inflation.”
This is the lesson Jesus wants us to learn this weekend.
And Jesus wants us to pay close attention to the poor, the marginalized, and the outcast.
Jesus reminds his fellow guests (and us) that a true act of generosity is one given to someone who can give us nothing in return, who cannot repay us, whose very social standing carries with it no prestige, no honor.
This is the exact way Jesus went about doing good, by emptying himself for others (especially the poor, marginalized and outcast) without counting the costs.
Are we prepared to do the same?
Once again, Jesus is sharing what’s expected of us as we build up the Kingdom here on earth.
All we need to do is listen and follow his lead.
I am humbled by the many friendships built these past three-plus years with you all. We’ve walked together on a most difficult path.
I love you all. And you will be forever in my heart and in my prayers.
As we move forward, sisters and brothers, please never forget that Jesus is with us every step of the way. Even when we feel abandoned by our institutional Church.
One of my St. Pat’s friends shared a beautiful quote that speaks to this moment.
It comes from Irish priest and poet John O’Donohue. I leave you with his words (and will let an Irishman have the last word in this final homily):
“At any time, you can ask yourself: At which threshold am I now standing? At this time in my life, what am I leaving? Where am I about to enter? What is preventing me from crossing my next threshold? What gift would enable me to do it? A threshold is not a simple boundary; it is a frontier that divides two different territories, rhythms, and atmospheres.
At this threshold, a great complexity of emotions comes alive: confusion, fear, excitement, sadness, hope. This is one of the reasons such vital crossings were always clothed in ritual. It is wise in your own life to be able to recognize and acknowledge the key thresholds; to take your time; to feel all the varieties of presence that accrue there; to listen inward with complete attention until you hear the inner voice calling you forward.
The time has come to cross.“