Bishop Glen John Provost

Bishop of Lake Charles

St. Joseph Catholic Church
Welsh, Louisiana

August 28, 2016
Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Seventy-fifth Anniversary of Parish Establishment

“When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor.” Luke 14:8

The most obvious lesson of the Gospel today is humility.   “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor” (Luke 14:8).    It is not easy for us human beings to be humble, to take the least important place.   We are filled with hubris, pride, and a yearning for the respect we think we deserve.   And the world in which we live only endorses this feeling in us.   The age in which we live also engrains in us fierce independence, where my opinion trumps any other position, including the truth.   This attitude makes myself supreme.  How often have I heard teachers or employers or leaders in the community say that we want to make people “feel good about themselves.”   Really?  Is that the purpose of life?   To feel good about ourselves?

In the world of Jesus’ day, the seating at a dinner was a highly regulated affair.   Where you sat showed what your position was in the assessment of the host or society.   And the most privileged and sought after place was the seat of honor, which was to the right of the host.   That was the place of honor.

Jesus warns us about seeking it.   Instead we should take the lowest seat.   What is Jesus really teaching? 

He is teaching us about a humility of mind, heart and soul.   And that humility comes from a truthfulness about who we are as human beings.   In fact, we deserve nothing.   We are God’s creatures who have been given everything.   If we look truthfully at our lives, I think we will be astounded at how undeserving we have been of many gifts that God has given us, regardless of whether those gifts are material or spiritual. 

When we take the lowest seat at the banquet, we are acknowledging that we owe everything to God.   The banquet Jesus speaks of is the heavenly banquet, as His final comment in this parable so abundantly shows.   “For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:14).      

There is a famous painting (Masaccio’s Holy Trinity in Santa Maria Novella in Florence) which stands over a sarcophagus on which is carved a skeleton.   There is an inscription over the skeleton that reads as follows:  “I was what you are and what I am you shall be.”   Human beings forget that, and Jesus wants to remind us of that reality.  

I think of this when I see someone in a rage about some minor inconvenience or pick a fight with an innocent person or complain about their rights while ignoring everyone else’s.   It happens in bullying at school, on the streets in road rage, in courtrooms in frivolous lawsuits, and at work with employee’s who cannot give an honest day’s work.   Sometimes I wonder whether we know who we really are.  

It is to this fundamental humility that Jesus is calling us.   It is a humility that recognizes our true status as God’s children, invited to a banquet but never presuming that we are worthy of anything but the lowest seat.   “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11).