August 20, 2019 | The Valley Catholic
By Father Brendan McGuire
Pastor of Holy Spirit Parish, San José, and Special Advisor to the Bishop,
Diocese of San José. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunday, August 25, 2019
Correct the Bias: We are Not a Country Club
Recently, I went with a friend to dinner at his golf country club back East. I do
not play golf and I made the assumption that people who play golf will wear shorts
and polo shirts. That is not how they dine at night for dinner! When I arrived in
the restaurant in decent shorts and a nice polo shirt the patrons were horrified that
I would wear such clothes. They looked me up and down. The maître ’de insisted
that I had to wear a jacket and offered me an old jacket from the closet that barely
fit. They insisted I wear it and they forgave the pants as long as I would remain
seated. The problem was it was a buffet dinner!
Now contrast this with another experience. I was at a friend’s house for dinner.
Again, I wore a nice polo shirt and shorts, but they were all in shirts, jackets and
pants. I thought to myself, “Again! I’ll never get this right!” My friend is in IT and
is very wealthy but when he saw me, he and all the guests took off their jackets
immediately to join my casual dress. The topic was never raised again. They made
me feel completely at home.
What a contrast!
The table of the Lord in heaven is more like my friend’s house than the country
club. The scripture readings today remind us that those invited to the table are
not who we think they are. The people are left outside because they do not think
that the people who are inside the house should be there. They think they should
be there and not those others. The Church is meant to be a prediction of what the
Kingdom of God will be like. All are welcome to the table regardless of where we
come from. The Pope reminds us that the “Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect
but a medicine for the ill.” That ill is in every one of us. This is not a country club
where the rules are to be obeyed so that we can dine. This is the feast of heaven,
to which all are invited, and because we have fed, we want to obey the rules. A
very different motivation.
The person approaches Jesus and asks, “Are many saved?” But really, he wants
to know: Are there many other than me, who are saved? Who are the others who
will be there? We might be terribly surprised that when we get to heaven who
else is there. We better not complain because those people who are in heaven will
probably be equally if not more surprised that we are there! The challenge for us
is to not judge and not to set new rules for what Christ has already set the rules.
We celebrate the fact that all are welcome and we pray that all make it regardless
of how they got there.
Sunday, September 1, 2019
The first reading from Sirach today says: “Conduct your affairs with humility.”
Today, the virtue of humility is not touted as an admirable quality. We think of
it as being almost self- debasing ourselves in public. The best definition I have
heard is from C.S. Lewis. “Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking
of yourself less.”
Put another way, it is not about us. That sounds like a cliché but it is not. It is
thinking of ourselves after we have thought of somebody else; after we thought
of God. So, the order is God, others and then ourselves. It is not that we do not
think of ourselves but that we think of ourselves in relation to others. We look at
it insofar as what would God have me do here. What does this other person need
me to do here?
In the reading from today, Sirach is trying to teach his students about the value
of the virtue of humility before God and realize that everything is a gift from
God. Then in the Gospel Jesus is saying it is not a quid pro quo. Humility is about
recognizing, as Christ did, that we are all equal. Just because somebody is lame
or poor or elderly or from a different nation, they are all still created by God. In
God’s eyes, we are all equal.
Christ told the story a million different ways. He took a really provocative way
of doing it. He held up those who were least; the youngest, women, widows, poor
and the crippled who had no value and he raised them up. He said these are the
ones we need to take care of. These are the ones we need to listen to. These are the
ones we need to see. Because in seeing them, we will see Christ. In seeing them,
we will see God’s love. That requires us to cross boundaries. That requires us to
listen with respect. It requires us to ask questions and not to judge. It requires us
to be humble; to recognize that we do not have all the answers and we have not
had all the experiences. When we do that then we will see the face of Christ in
places we never thought we could.
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