Humility is an inside job
This Gospel is a tricky ruse to foil the Pharisees and we need to be careful that we don’t fall for it either. The whole scene is a set-up in which Jesus is invited to a dinner to be examined by religious leaders about his orthodoxy. They arrange that a man with edema appear before Jesus to watch what he will do. This is a trap to see if Jesus will “work” on the Sabbath by healing. If he does, then he does not keep the law and is not from God. Jesus takes the man, heals him, and sends him away. He then reduces the Pharisees to silence with questions that reveal how restoring creation is at the heart of the Sabbath.
But the deeper foil is how Jesus critiques status driven religiosity.
Jesus says don’t gamble on assuming the seat of honor at the wedding banquet. You may be in someone else’s place. Then you will be ashamed by moving to a lower spot. Rather gamble on assuming the lowest seat. Then maybe you will be moved up higher by the tactic of humbling yourself.
Both these gambles are strategies to get higher status. Don’t fall for it.
What we want to find is our place at the wedding banquet. Pride manifests in two styles: one is flashy, showing off and unashamed; the other looks humble but beneath the modesty is a pride that they really are the humblest. The problem is that both styles of pride are symptoms of not being truly at home in yourself. You find your seat at the wedding banquet of God’s kingdom in yourself first. Then you will recognize your place within the community that forms the wedding party on earth.
True humility is an inside job. It’s not found by grasping for the highest or by abasing yourself to the lowest place. It comes from the center of yourself. The way to the center is by exploring the limits of your body. What is your body truly capable of? What are your strengths, weaknesses, abilities? Objectively examining the distortions of your mind, your unrealistic expectations, your overinflated sense of self or your belief that you are a total failure can re-focus your mind. By meeting all our emotions including terror, self-hatred, rage and apathy we experience how we are. What is beneath all our positive and negative feeling states is the mystery of who we are.
Like the jawbreaker we get to the center by savoring all the layers around it. True humility starts by really experiencing and accepting what belongs to us. True humility is completed by experiencing what belongs to God and has been given to us. God’s love is at the same time humbling and exalting because it is absolutely satisfying. It satisfies who we truly are and so we have no need to strive higher or lower.
Vocation discernment is the search to find your place at the wedding banquet. Good discernment takes a sober look at your physical ability, your beliefs about God, church and yourself and your willingness and generosity. In the inventory we take of ourselves we come across our ups and downs, our higher and lower places. By meeting these in faith and self-love we loosen the knot of identification where in pride or shame we believe “this is who I am.” By staying with the process of meeting our experience without abandoning ourselves we become even more fit for the kingdom because we are accepting what God accepts, the whole of our selves.
By Mark Blom, OMI – Vocation Director OMI Lacombe Canada
You can contact Fr. Mark for advice about discernment and vocation direction. He can meet with you by phone to conduct a short vocation assessment to help you find your way. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange for an appointment.