Reflection on the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 1, 2019 | Gospel: Luke 14:1, 7-14
The Best Seats
The best seats are those nearest the host. It is so even today. The boss sits at the head of the table followed by other supervisors. Other members sit at the table too, while others sit at the back of the room. A savvy employee can walk into the room and determine rank simply by observing where people sit.
We like the best seats. The view is better, of course, but the appeal goes beyond the view. Sitting in the best seats makes us feel superior to ordinary folks.
Luke characterizes Jesus’ remarks as a parable, cueing us that Jesus is speaking of kingdom issues instead of offering advice about self-promotion.
Jesus is helping us to prepare for the life in God’s kingdom by learning and following.
The danger is that we might misinterpret Jesus’ words as a backdoor strategy for self-promotion instead of a call to humble service – He is calling us to humble ourselves as a pathway to exaltation.
“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
There’s a story called “The Death of a Hapsburg”. In Vienna, Austria, you will find a church in which the Hapsburgs, the former ruling family of Austria, are buried. It is said that when royal funerals finally arrive at the church for the burial rites, the mourners leading the funeral procession knock at the door to gain entrance.
“Who is it that desires admission here?” a priest asks through the locked door.
“His apostolic majesty, the emperor!” calls the guard.
“I don’t know him,” answers the priest.
A second knock follows and a similar question is asked. This time, the funeral guard announces the deceased as “the highest emperor.”
Again, “I don’t know him” echoes throughout the vaulted burial chamber.
Finally, a third knock is heard. “Who is it?”
“A poor sinner, your brother,” comes the final answer. Then the door is opened and the royal burial completed.
“He gives greater grace, therefore, it says, ‘God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble.” – James 4:6