Jesus was the consummate teacher. He was always looking for ways to instruct His disciples how to live out the brand new life of a disciple transformed by the grace of God, the life of one redeemed by Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit.
Occasionally, He would masterfully craft a story like the one about the prodigal son that perfectly explains a crucial aspect of the Good News such as the approach of His Heavenly Father to a repentant sinner. At other times, Jesus would take a real life event and turn it into a powerful teaching moment, like with the woman caught in the act of adultery. On other occasions, Jesus would offer a combination of the two. This week's Gospel passage from Luke is an example of this last method.
Our Lord finds Himself at the house of a leading Pharisee for a dinner party. Seeing people jockeying for positions of honor at the table, He decides it is time to teach the guests about the virtue of humility by telling a parable. Jesus seizes the moment and calls His disciples to begin the arduous process of growing in humility.
Humility is arguably one of the most important virtues. A virtue is a quality of the soul that enables one to do the right thing in specific circumstances with a certain quickness, ease and joyfulness. A virtue flows from deep inside a person, from his or her character. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus invites people to grow, develop and change. This process often begins with a simple encounter with Christ.
It is very important to note that Jesus encourages the dinner guests to do humble things: "go and take the lowest place" and "the one who humbles himself will be exalted, and "when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled..." Jesus is teaching us that one of the most significant aspects of developing a virtue is to consistently, intentionally, prayerfully and humbly perform virtuous acts. The repetition of humble acts combined with God's guidance and grace leads to the development of the virtue of humility. The Catechism says, "Human virtues acquired by education, by deliberate acts and by perseverance ever-renewed in repeated efforts are purified and elevated by divine grace. With God's help, they forge character and give facility in the practice of the good" (CCC, No. 1810).
Humility is important because it images Christ and defeats pride. Pride is at the heart of all sin because it was critical to the first sin, the disobedience of Adam and Eve. Humility is incredibly attractive. We all recognize it and deeply appreciate it when we run across someone who is truly humble. It is quite helpful to the spread of the Gospel because it lends authenticity to the message of a disciple of Christ. The very character of a humble person makes you want to listen to what they have to say about what is dear to them. A proud and haughty teacher or preacher, on the other hand, turns people off and makes it doubly hard to listen to a message that already is difficult to embrace.
An everyday dinner party with rather predictable behavior among the guests became a teaching opportunity for Jesus. He tells a parable and teaches a captive audience about the critical Christian virtue of humility. I suppose the host had recently changed Jesus' seat before he was regaled by the Teacher. May we have the strength and grace to humble ourselves so that one day the Lord Himself will exalt us.
Excellent thoughts from Fr. Cantalamessa, as always.
thank you for the post