Twenty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time—September 1, 2013

beggarCentral Idea: The wise are humble. Doctrine: Humility is the foundation of prayer. Practical Application: The prayer of the beggar.

Click here for the Lectionary 126 readings.

Central Idea: The wise are humble

Reading 1 Sir 3:17-18, 20, 28-29

  • We hate the proud because we are proud ourselves and can’t bear the idea that others have more status than we do.
  • God knows the proud have no basis for exalting themselves.
  • We can humble ourselves, recognize our limitations, learn from the wisdom of those who have come before us, acknowledge our sins, and share what we have with those in need. These are the acts of a prudent person.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 68:4-5, 6-7, 10-11

  • There are two ways to benefit from God’s bountiful goodness: To be just or to be downtrodden.
  • To be unjust and prosperous is a recipe for disaster.
  • To be needy—to be an orphan or a widow—invites God’s care.
  • To be just and downtrodden is a condition of beatitude.

Reading 2 Heb 12:18-19, 22-24a

  • God appeared to the Jews of Moses’ time on Mt. Sinai in terrifying power. That is the Old Covenant.
  • He appears to us now in a human way as the glorified community of God, the angels, and all the saved in the new heavenly Jerusalem. This is the New Covenant.

Gospel Lk 14:1, 7-14

  • The people attending the dinner at the home of the leading Pharisee were watching Jesus carefully.
  • He told a parable to those who had been invited and gave some unusual advice to his host.
  • Our Lord knows how much we want good things.
    • One of those things is to be able to eat and to eat well. We can readily imagine this wish in the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. But everyone wants to share in the bounty of a rich man.
    • A second good thing we all want is to be well though of, to be honored in the sight of others, as the guest of honor at a banquet is.
    • The third is to be rewarded by God for the good we have done by being resurrected from the dead.
    • It is good to eat well. Once you have enough to eat, it is even better to be esteemed publicly. But how can either be compared to overcoming the grave?
  • The only one who really knows us and who can rightly judge our status is the Lord. This is why we should humble ourselves. Compared to him, we have every reason to be humble. If anyone on earth exalts us, we can be humbly grateful, but not make a big deal about it. Compared to God, we are all poor, crippled, lame, and blind, who have nothing to offer.
  • It is both human and supernatural wisdom to humble oneself. It is human wisdom because it prevents us from being put down. It is supernatural wisdom because we really are lowly, no matter how much others may esteem or admire us.

Doctrine: Humility is the foundation of prayer

  • Point 2559 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains how humility is necessary to pray.
  • Compared to God, we are all poor, crippled, lame, and blind, who have nothing to offer him. As St. Augustine put it, “Man is a beggar before God.”
  • How do we beg God? We do this through prayer. According to St. John Damascene, “Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God.”
  • But when we pray, we should be like the guest who takes the lowest place at the banquet. We should not “speak from the height of our pride and will” but “out of the depths” of a humble and contrite heart. (Ps 130:1).
  • We just heard Our Lord proclaim, “He who humbles himself will be exalted.” Through prayer, the beggar can become the rich man; the fool, wise; the unjust, just.
  • How do we begin on the road of prayer? “Only when we humbly acknowledge that ‘we do not know how to pray as we ought’ (Rom 8:26) are we ready to receive freely the gift of prayer.” (CCC 2559)

Practical Application: The prayer of the beggar

  • The beggar goes to his post each day because he never knows when the generous man will pass by. Thus, we pray every day, at set times, as we have determined beforehand, not according to how we are feeling at the moment.
  • Two thousand years of practical wisdom indicate we should offer the day we are about to live to God when we arise and re-offer the day we have lived to God at the end of it.
    • That end-of-day prayer should include an examination of our day, thanksgiving for benefits received, and contrition for our sins.
  • We must eat everyday so we should thank God for the food we share and the family with which we can share it.
  • We are social beings and so we should pray for the needs of those around us. A just hierarchy of prayer is for the needs of the Church and our nation, the sick, and those dying.
  • We are also rational beings, capable of reflecting of the meaning of everything we see and experience. This calls for a time every day of mental prayer, of talking with the Blessed Trinity about our life and everything going on. This prayer should always include the consideration of how everything we experience is for our good.
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