August 28, 2022
Sister Therese O’Grady, OSB shares a reflection on the scripture readings: Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29; Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24a; Luke 14:1, 7-14
In the Hebrews reading, the two covenants of Moses and of Christ are compared. The Mosaic Covenant originated in fear of God and threats of divine punishments. For me this clarifies some of the threatening language of the psalms we pray daily. The Covenant in Christ gives us direct access to God. It makes us members of the Christian community, God’s children, a people made holy.
This comparison reminds me of the comparison done about the Rule of Benedict and the Rule of the Master regarding hospitality, the theme of the gospel for today. The former follows Jesus’ way more closely and the latter seems to follow the First Covenant.
This passage from the Gospel according to Luke calls us to invite disinterestedly. This sounds like the Radical Hospitality we recently studied from Joseph Donder’s Praying and Preaching the Sunday Gospels. Be wise, don’t calculate, be generous, and all will go well. All are equal, all are one.
The reading from the Gospel suggests calculation and hidden intention of wedding guests at a banquet, but Jesus advises against this. There is something similar indicated in the first reading from Sirach: “My son, my daughter, be gentle in caring out your business and you will be better loved than a lavish giver.” Conduct your affairs with humility and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts! Humble yourself the greater you are! “Look at her, such a humble person…”
Father Keating goes deeper into spiritual transformation when he writes, “…to reach more deeply toward the love of Christ within us and to manifest it more fully in the world—constitutes the heart of the spiritual journey.”
The journey has been presented in Xian tradition as an ascent. Images of ladders and upward journeys abound. But for most of us who undertake the journey today, in our age when developmental psychology and a greater understanding of the unconscious is widespread, the journey might more properly be seen as a descent.
Keating continues into this foray of the spiritual journey that is a confrontation with our motivations and unconscious emotional programs and responses, called our “emotional programs for happiness” that don’t work. These are our energy centers. The need for security, pleasure, esteem, and power which hinder our growing up into full human personhood. He calls this “the Human Condition.”
In the gospel Jesus appeals to our base motives, do it and you will be noticed, you will be honored later. Esteem. Approval. Power. Then Jesus appeals to reciprocity. You’ll get the prize of resurrection with all the Just.
The point in all this is to serve freely in doing good or just doing our job without regard to our own prospects, leaving the recompence to God, the generous one.
The kingdom is for everyone, and our hospitality is to embrace all, especially those who are overlooked by people with only selfish motives.
Benedict quotes this very passage at the opening of Chapter 7 on Humility: “whoever exalts themselves shall be humbled, and whoever humbles themselves shall be exalted (Lk 14:11) and Chapter 53 “all guests are to be welcomed as Christ.”
Bernard of Clairvaux further expresses Benedict ‘s call: “The Steps of Humility demonstrate a careful practice of humility in our relationship with others and it is essential to our coming to an authentic knowledge of God.” And from St. Bruno: “What reason is there for choosing the first seats? There is plenty for all no matter where we sit. There is nothing we shall lack.” Hopefully we make progress from childhood rushing to the front of the line to get to the lunch counter!!!
A friend of the monastery, Patrick Bussell, sent us a quote from a contact in a Ukraine clinic that is appropriate for this reflection also: “Use hospitality one to another without grudging” (1 Peter 4:9)
This gospel passage focuses on guests; however, since we all actually are guests in the House of God – the teaching can be taken personally as we encounter an other – any and all others.
Donders, Joseph G. Praying and preaching the Sunday Gospel. 1990. Orbis Books
Keating, Thomas. Invitation to Love: The Way of Christian Contemplation. 1994. Continuum.
Jeffrey, David Lyle. Luke (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible). 2012. Brazos Press.