September 1, 2013

Homily for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
Director, La Salette Shrine
Enfield, NH

(Click here for today’s readings)

I lived a total of twenty-three years outside of the USA, mostly in an international community of Europeans, South Americans, Africans, and Asians. You can imagine the puzzlement of many of them when they heard American presidents and others constantly refer to the US as the “Greatest nation on earth,” and “Leader of the free world.”

That we are a great and influential nation, no one could doubt. But that doesn’t make us better than anyone else.

We aren’t alone in this arrogance. The French traditionally claim to be the greatest thinkers, and of course they have the best wines, chefs, etc. Italians claim the greatest artists, and of course they also have the best wines, chefs, etc. Ireland prides itself on being the land of saints and scholars. The list goes on.

Should we go around saying we are the worst nation on earth? Of course not. There is such a thing as honest and healthy pride.

We all understand what false humility is, and we know that that Jesus is not promoting it in today’s Gospel. But we also understand what false pride is, and can see exactly what Jesus thinks of that.

The last part of this Gospel text is easily missed. Jesus takes his teaching a step further. It’s not enough to have humility and not consider ourselves better. We ought to associate with those who are naturally humble because life has humbled them.

That’s the real challenge in today’s Gospel. How can we respond to it?

The obvious choice is to be involved in an activity like serving community dinners, soup kitchens, etc. Even then, do we just distribute the food to those in need, or do we sit down and eat with them once the serving is done?

Other possibilities exist. You might have a neighbor or friend who is widowed or divorced or fallen on hard times and feeling desperately alone. Jesus mentions specifically the physically handicapped who, in his world, had no income but what they could get by begging, with no hope of improving their lot.

Today’s second reading declares in a solemn and poetic way just how blessed and privileged we Christians are. The first reading tells us, “Humble yourself the more, the greater you are.”

We may be better off than others in many ways. That doesn’t make us better than anyone else. The willingness to reach out to others is what makes us better, not by comparison to anyone else, but “better than ourselves,” better than we might otherwise be, as persons, as Christians.

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