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THE KINGDOM OF HUMILITY

Read­ing Time: 10 minutes

(Ref. Texts: Sir 3:17–18.20.28–29; Ps 6768; Heb 12:18–19.22–24; Luke 14:1.7–14)

The con­tem­por­ary soci­ety espe­cially, Niger­ia is struc­tured accord­ing to those the Phar­isee should invite and those he should not invite. The invit­ees and the host are reflec­tions of us. We are the rich who invite our fel­low rich friends and fam­ily mem­bers. Unfor­tu­nately, our soci­ety has been designed into the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots.’ The desire for power leads to many evil both in the civil and reli­gious set­tings. It is this atti­tude that has con­tin­ued to mul­tiply on daily basis the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, the home­less, the depressed, the poisoned, and the dead. Until we learn to avoid this evil, we shall always be faced with con­flicts, wars and auto-destruction.”

Prologue

Fol­low­ing Jesus’ warn­ing on the danger of not enter­ing through the nar­row door, and on the pro­vok­ing say­ing that many who are first will be last while many who are last will be first, some Phar­isees approached Jesus and asked him to leave because Herod intends killing him. Jesus sum­mar­ises his fear­less­ness, com­mit­ment and con­vic­tion with his strong reply “go and tell that fox, behold, I cast out demons and I per­form heal­ings today and tomor­row, and on the third day I accom­plish my pur­pose. Yet I must con­tin­ue on my way today, tomor­row, and the fol­low­ing day, for it is impossible that a proph­et should die out­side of Jer­u­s­alem” (Luke 13:32–33). Jesus describes Herod Anti­pas tetrarch of Galilee and Perea as a dog. Prob­ably, Jesus was teach­ing with­in this region (cf. Luke 3:1; Matt 14:1). Every deceit­ful and cun­ning per­son or ruler is a dog. And we have so many dogs in the world espe­cially here in Niger­ia both in the civil and reli­gious con­texts. After this, Jesus con­tin­ued his teach­ings and jour­ney to Jer­u­s­alem. Herod (or who­ever) can­not stop him. He must accom­plish the mis­sion entrus­ted unto him by the Father.

In the soci­ety in which Jesus lived and did his mis­sion, meals played an import­ant role. In that soci­ety, meals were more than a time for shar­ing nour­ish­ment. They were a time to share ideas and to delib­er­ate on dif­fer­ent aspects of social rela­tion­ships and reli­gious issues. In the Gos­pel accord­ing to Luke, the places of these meals: (at the home of a tax col­lect­or, cf. Luke 5:29); the people with whom a per­son eats (sin­ners, cf. Luke 5:30); wheth­er a per­son washes his or hands before eat­ing (cf. Luke 11:38); and, as is in this Sunday Gos­pel, the place that a per­son dur­ing meal, are all import­ant. Luke says that dur­ing this meal, Jesus tells a par­able. Such par­able is wise advice to both guests and hosts about find­ing true hap­pi­ness at the heav­enly banquet.

In these say­ings, Jesus gives us not only advice on how to approach the end times but also on how to live accord­ing to Jesus’ vis­ion of a just and func­tion­al soci­ety. In the Gos­pel accord­ing to Luke, Jesus also advises us how the Church must be part of bring­ing about this soci­ety. That pre­sup­poses that the church itself is just, func­tion­al and at the ser­vice of the people.

Jesus provokes the Jewish authority

This is the con­text of Luke 14:1.7–14. This Sunday Gos­pel provides fur­ther reas­on some people could be denied entrance into etern­al life. After the intro­duct­ory verse, Luke inserts anoth­er pas­sage (tech­nic­ally called inter­cal­a­tion) before giv­ing the details of Jesus’ activ­it­ies in the house of the Phar­isee. It was on the Jew­ish day of rest (Shabat) that Jesus went to dine in the house of the Phar­isee. Before sit­ting at the table, Jesus pro­voked the Jew­ish author­ity by doing what was pro­hib­ited on the day of rest – the heal­ing of a man with dropsy (edema). To the ques­tion “is it law­ful to cure on the Sab­bath or not?” (Luke 14:3), the Scribes and the Phar­isees pre­ferred silence. Nat­ur­ally, Jesus went ahead and restored the man’s health. And to show them how unjust and selfish they are, he asked to them “who among you, if your son or ox falls into a cistern, would not imme­di­ately pull him out on the Sab­bath day?” (Luke 14:5). Of course, they could not answer the ques­tion (cf. Luke 14:6) because they knew they were not inno­cent. This is the third and last of Jesus’ heal­ings on a Shabat accord­ing to Luke (for the oth­er two, cf. Luke 6:6–11 and 13:10–17). It was at this point that Jesus told them the par­able in Luke 14:7–14). How did they react to this?

The parable

Jesus uses every occa­sion to indic­ate to people the best ingredi­ents for a bet­ter soci­ety, and for a bet­ter and hap­pi­er life. He goes to the house of an illus­tri­ous Phar­isee to dine with him. And as an uncom­fort­able per­son­al­ity, those who think he con­sti­tutes obstacle to them kept fol­low­ing him not to learn from him but, to find fault with him. This is clearly under­lined in verse one which reads: One Sab­bath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prom­in­ent Phar­isee, he was being care­fully watched. He was care­fully watched by the pre­sumed holy Jew­ish author­ity and by the self-acclaimed right­eous Jews. Fool­ish and child­ish beha­viour indeed! Luke explains that the par­able became unavoid­able when Jesus saw how those invited by the Phar­isee were choos­ing places of hon­our at the table. One would have expec­ted Jesus to ignore those people. But how could he when teach­ing and bring­ing people on the right track was and still remains (through the Gos­pels) his mis­sion? Fur­ther­more, besides prov­ing that he does not dis­crim­in­ate against any­one, Jesus might have accep­ted the invit­a­tion of the Phar­isee because it would offer him the oppor­tun­ity to inter­act with the Jew­ish author­ity, since many of them were present for the din­ner. Def­in­itely, they were not expect­ing this. As usu­al, Jesus goes off script and does the unexpected.

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