Sermon for the 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

“When you have a party invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind – that they cannot pay you back means that you are fortunate”.

 

Today’s Gospel calls us to a radical humility in the most stark manner.  As we listen to the words of Jesus, inevitably I most of all feel insufficient, we find ourselves not coming up to the mark, or saying “What chance do I have of inheriting eternal life when I listen to these words”?  The call in the Gospel to humility cannot be ignored for we have to choose the last place and to invite those who will not invite us in return.  However, the mistake we make is to think that humility and taking the last place is all about human striving, my achievement or my effort.

 

Humility comes from a deep reality which is knowing that I am loved unconditionally by God, invited by Jesus to be close to Him so that I may go to Heaven and knowing that I am a big sinner who has great need for mercy and forgiveness.  Humility can only come from a personal knowledge of Jesus and a desire to grow a relationship with Him.

 

The world wants to seduce us with many lies.  We are told that our identity is formed by who our friends, how we look, how much we possess or own or indeed many will pat us on the back and say “Yes you’re religious that’s fine – but keep it private”.  The world wants to seduce us with a false religion so that we are known not by Christ, but by the material values that surround us.  We are only truly ourselves when we know God and are known by Him.  Many will know that as a parish we try and inadequately at times to reach out to the poor.  They are the ones who are homeless, spiritually poor, crippled by addiction or simply the unloved and abandoned.  In Open House and Night Shelter we look specifically to those who are homeless and on the streets, in Cenacolo we reach out to those burdened by addition and then in SOS prayerline we offer ourselves in prayer to those who are broken, unloved and feel destitute.  I share these reflections not because it’s about human virtue or because we are saying “Aren’t we good” and looking for accolades.  Rather it is to say that in that deep desire to be close to the poor we are in the best place to hear the Holy Spirit and to come to know Jesus.  The poor teach us how to become disciples, that is why however we encounter the poor, it is important that we are there.  The poor are not just those on the street, they could be our lonely neighbour, the unborn threatened by abortion or the Holy Souls in purgatory that we must keep in heart and prayer.  All these have little or nothing in our world, and are so often abandoned or neglected.  In truth, however, in the time of eternity and our spiritual lives, they have the greatest wealth for that wealth can only come from knowing that they are loved and held in the palm of the hand of God.  Sometimes that journey to knowing that truth can be challenging and difficult and it is not an easy conversation to have.  As we try to have that conversation we can be rejected, our words can seem ludicrous, and our kindness seems to be ignored.  That is why Mother Teresa of Calcutta who is to be canonised this Sunday in Rome often talked about the “distressing disguise of the poorest of the poor”.  If we are to know and love Jesus in our world it is not going to be easy, indeed, it is difficult at times.  Our world does a fantastic job in suffocating and shutting out the presence of Jesus.  Heaven and eternity can be offered in so many immediate and attractive experiences.  Sitting next to Oxford Street, eternity seems to be on the other side of the cash till.  It is because of that suffocation that it is so difficult for us to meet and encounter Jesus and to share him with others.  That is why our journey with and close to the poor is so beautiful because it is only there that we can truly hear the voice of the Holy Spirit for there, there is no wealth only Jesus.

 

Humility can only come in knowing that we are loved by Christ and forgiven.  The world does not love us and cannot forgive us.  Unless we meet Jesus we cannot share Him with others and indeed unless we have that meeting, we will not admit of our sinfulness and our desire to repent.  He alone can forgive us, the world cannot!  The world does not do humility!  So whoever we are and whatever our circumstances, if we truly desire humility we need to set out to meet Christ in those who know him and those that he keeps most close to his heart.  Such is the way of humility.  If we are to know Christ it can only be the way of humility for he was a humble one and that perhaps is the message of the Gospel today.

 

“When you have a party invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind – that they cannot pay you back means that you are fortunate”.