Happy Saturday in the 30th Week of Ordinary Time!
How many times have you heard the saying “It’s better to give than to receive”?
I don’t know about you, but I remember first hearing that as a kid, and thinking to myself, “Hmmm… that’s pretty stupid. It’s AWESOME to get stuff.” As time passed, though, I began to accumulate so many things that I was running out of space to keep them. So I did what any other normal person would do in that case. That’s right – I built a shed to hold all my stuff. But it all was mostly just a bunch of things I really didn’t need… and some of it I didn’t even want. As the piles got bigger and bigger, ultimately, it all only served to really weigh me down.
It’s funny, in a sad way, how that transferred to my spirit and emotion. I also held on to pain and hurt. I held on to mistakes and brokenness. I made space in my heart to house the betrayal and horror I had experienced. It was like a huge trailer, covered with a mountainous pile of the past, on top of which I was sitting, the ceiling right at the top of my head. Can you imagine trying to pull such a thing around with you? I was unable to take any more. I had no more room, and there was no place to build a shed.
If I were a betting man, I’d wager I’m not the only one of us who has experienced these types of things.
In today’s Gospel (Luke 14:1,7-11), Jesus instructs, “Do not recline at the place of honor.” Instead he says to take the lowest place, so the host can ask you to move closer to the place of honor. “The one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
On the surface, this sure looks like a social-status-climbing chess game to me. I could just hear people saying, “OK, I get it. I’ll sit down there because that way I’ll get the greatness and recognition I’m after.” That sounds pretty hypocritical and selfish to me, and I don’t believe that’s what Jesus really intended as his point.
And then one day in church I heard this Gospel (for probably the 100th time), and it hit me. It wasn’t at all about looking good in front of your friends. I heard Jesus explain that by humbling yourself, you are actually becoming more open to God’s call to come closer to him.
Being empty means God has room to fill you up!
It’s a sad truth that tearing down our sheds and emptying our trailers are such difficult things to do. But it can get us off our “mountains,” bring us home, and help us prepare a place in our hearts to house all the care, compassion, forgiveness, peace, and love that God wants for us to both have and share. Ultimately, it gives us a gift so huge that we’’ll never be able to house it… it brings us closer to God. And that, my friends, is a gift worth all the room we can possibly make.
So let me ask you… what spot at the table do you need to get up from and leave behind? What things must you to let go of in order to have space for God to work miracles in your life?
Let’s all pray to hear our great and loving Host say to us, “Come. Come closer.”
Dear God, thank you for all the gifts you offer us. Please grant us the grace to always be empty enough to accept your call to rise, and sit closer to you. Amen.
Peace and love to you today, and forever.
Paul Puccinelli is Director of Liturgy & Music at St. Rita Parish in Sierra Madre, California, and a member of the retreat team at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center.