Reflection on the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
When I came up this hill at the ripe old age of 18 to give my life to God as I understood what that meant at the time, we had a very different scene around here. We all dressed alike and had a “horarium” which told us what to do and when to do it. Father Nerinckx said we would change and we did. I think he is pleased with where we are today — a Community of members and co-members united to befriend and support one another as we endeavor to do the laborious work of working for justice and acting for peace. Amid all of the changes, probably only one thing still remains the same for all of us. No matter who we are or where we are, we all apparently still agree on the importance of food and cherish the practice of sharing a meal.
Luke’s Jesus seems to be deeply appreciative of the importance of food as well. There are more banquets and tables and stories about banquets, tables and celebrations in Luke than in any other Gospel. The sharing of food seems to be his favorite context for teaching, reproving and enjoying people. It is also his chosen context for his final and most enduring contact with his community of followers.
Our Gospel today finds Jesus responding to his third invitation to dine with Pharisees, and we are told that he is being closely watched. Although he may well have been out of his element in this worldly and sophisticated group of leading Pharisees, that did not keep him from giving them some advice when he saw them choosing places of honor at the table. He reminded them that the humble will be exalted and the exalted will be humbled, which they probably already knew from Sirach. Maybe their lack of response to his advice led him to describe in vivid detail the pain and embarrassment that goes with public demotion should that occur. Although choosing to be humble because of the pain of not being humble is probably better than no humility at all, it’s a far cry from the humility which is one of the predominant characteristics of the lives of the close followers of Jesus. It’s at least a start. References to the value and practice of humility occur frequently throughout Hebrew and Christian biblical writings.
In his writings for the early friends of Mary, Father Nerinckx also visited the theme of food — spiritual food — in a prayer called “The Morning Manna.” As you recall, manna was the bread of survival that God provided for the Israelites as they traveled through the desert. Part of the prayer reads, “O Dear Sisters and Scholars! Love one another, have only one heart, one soul, one mind. Love the institute, love the rules, Love Jesus’ darling humility.” In the spirit of updating, FAther Nerinckx would probably rewrite the prayer to say “O dear Sisters, Co-members, Linkers, Friends and all who network with us to do the work of the Gospel: Love one another — have only one heart, one soul, one mind. Love the Community. Love I Am the Way,” and with an echo of Jesus’ invitation to be ever mindful of the importance of humility, “Love Jesus’ darling humility.” This is our nourishing communal spiritual breakfast, and I think God is surely pleased with our efforts to live in the spirit of this prayer here at the Motherhouse. Martha, Mary Ann and Mary Nelson have joined us recently and have been heard to say that it is good to be here. All of you are likewise invited to come here to live, and hopefully, you, too, would feel at home and say that it is good to be here. May we all, as did the travelers to Emmaus, continue to know God’s presence in the breaking of bread. Finally, Jesus had some advice for the host concerning who should be invited to the table: the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. We, all together, are the hosts of this Loretto Community banquet, and it is up to each one of us to keep the flame of hospitality burning brightly. In closing, I think this prayer by the Dalai Lama provides a good vision of who we are and food for thought about what we are to be doing: “We are called to be a source of love and light for all. … May we be a guard for those who need protection; a guide for those on the path. A boat, a raft, a bridge for those who wish to cross the flood. May we be a lamp in the darkness. A resting place for the weary. A healing medicine for all who are sick. A vase of plenty, a tree of miracles for the boundless multitudes of living beings. May we bring sustenance and awakening, enduring like the earth and sky until all beings are freed from sorrow and need and all are awakened.”