Humble prayer: Twenty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year C

girl in prayer

Through prayer, the beggar can become rich; the fool, wise; the unjust, just.

Central 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

My child, conduct your affairs with humility,
and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts.
Humble yourself the more, the greater you are,
and you will find favor with God.
What is too sublime for you, seek not,
into things beyond your strength search not.
The mind of a sage appreciates proverbs,
and an attentive ear is the joy of the wise.
Water quenches a flaming fire,
and alms atone for sins.

  • Why do the proud rankle us? Is it because they do not recognize our own dignity? Is it because they give themselves a status they do not deserve? Is it partly because we are proud ourselves and can’t bear the idea that others have more status than we do?
  • God knows what basis the proud have for exalting themselves—that is, no basis.
  • 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, or, as our reading puts it, a sage.
  • In other words, “A humble person recognizes his own inadequacy, qualities and abilities, and presses them into service, doing good without attracting attention or expecting the applause of others.”[1]

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

R. God, in your goodness, you have made a home for the poor.

The just rejoice and exult before God;
they are glad and rejoice.
Sing to God, chant praise to his name;
whose name is the LORD.

The father of orphans and the defender of widows
is God in his holy dwelling.
God gives a home to the forsaken;
he leads forth prisoners to prosperity.

A bountiful rain you showered down, O God, upon your inheritance;
you restored the land when it languished;
your flock settled in it;
in your goodness, O God, you provided it for the needy.

  • There are two ways to benefit from God’s bountiful goodness: To be just or to be downtrodden.
  • To be just, simply, brings its own reward: they are “glad and rejoice.”
  • To be unjust and prosperous is a recipe for disaster.
  • To be needy—to be an orphan or a widow—or to be a repentant sinner—invites God’s care.
  • To be just and downtrodden is a condition of beatitude.

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

Brothers and sisters:
You have not approached that which could be touched
and a blazing fire and gloomy darkness
and storm and a trumpet blast
and a voice speaking words such that those who heard
begged that no message be further addressed to them.
No, you have approached Mount Zion
and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem,
and countless angels in festal gathering,
and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven,
and God the judge of all,
and the spirits of the just made perfect,
and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant,
and the sprinkled blood that speaks more eloquently than that of Abel.

  • God appeared to the Jews of Moses’ time on Mt. Sinai in terrifying power. That is the Old Covenant.
  • God appears to us now humanly, humbly, invitingly, and festively in this glorified community of Christ and the Father, the angels, and all the saved in the new heavenly Jerusalem. This is the New Covenant.

Alleluia Mt 11:29ab

Take my yoke upon you, says the Lord,
and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.

  • The Greatest One is the most humble: he invites us fake important ones to be docile, easily led, so we can learn what He wishes to teach us.

Gospel Lk 14:1, 7-14

On a sabbath Jesus went to dine
at the home of one of the leading Pharisees,
and the people there were observing him carefully.

He told a parable to those who had been invited,
noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table.
“When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet,
do not recline at table in the place of honor.
A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him,
and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say,
‘Give your place to this man,’
and then you would proceed with embarrassment
to take the lowest place.
Rather, when you are invited,
go and take the lowest place
so that when the host comes to you he may say,
‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’
Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table.
For every one who exalts himself will be humbled,
but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Then he said to the host who invited him,
“When you hold a lunch or a dinner,
do not invite your friends or your brothers
or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors,
in case they may invite you back and you have repayment.
Rather, when you hold a banquet,
invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind;
blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.
For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

  • The people attending the dinner at the home of this important Pharisee were not listening intently to Our Lord with “an attentive ear”; rather, they were watching Him carefully. They wanted to be able to judge him whom they did not trust. Instead, He invited them to judge themselves through the parable he told to those who had been invited and the unusual advice he offered 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 wedding banquet is.
    • A 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 except our need.
  • It is both human and supernatural wisdom to humble oneself. It is human wisdom because it prevents us from being put down and gives others an opportunity to lift us up. 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

  • 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” (CCC 2559).
  • But 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” (CCC 2559).
  • 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; CCC 2559).
  • We just heard Our Lord proclaim, “He who humbles himself will be exalted.” This is why humility is the foundation of 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 teach us about first and last thoughts: when we arise, we should offer the day we are about to live to God; when we are getting ready to retire, we should re-offer the day we have lived to Him.
    • That end-of-day prayer should include an examination of our day: thanksgiving for benefits received, contrition for sins.
  • We must eat everyday, so we should thank God for the food in which we share and the family or companions with which we share it. We say “Grace” because these are gifts.
  • 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.

The Homiletic Directory recommends the following Catechism points on the theme “Prayer calls for humility and poverty of spirit”: 2546, 2559, 2631, 2713.

[1] David Isaacs, Character Building: A Guide for Parents and Teachers (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1984), p. 255.

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