Reflections for the Week of Sunday August 28, 2016 Fifteenth after Pentecost

Gospel: Luke 14.1,7-14 tells of a meal Jesus had with the Pharisees on a Sabbath and some observations He made on the circumstances. The excluded verses say there was a man present who was ill and the Pharisees were watching Jesus who asked if it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath? The law of Moses didn’t forbid healing; it merely forbad ‘work’. It was the ‘tradition of the elders’, the Pharisaic or rabbinic law, that forbad healing. No one answered Him because they were embarrassed to deny the law or, on the other hand, to deny mercy. So Jesus healed him. But then Jesus begins to talk about humility or exalting oneself. The issue is whether to take a seat of honor and run the risk of being asked to move to a lower place if a more honored person arrives. Jesus says it is better to take the lowest place and then you can only be asked to move up. Our human nature is to want the best and highest for oneself. We could refer to this as pride or self-centeredness. It drives selfish ambition. Jesus is humble and teaches humility. It has been said that humility is not to think of yourself as being more lowly than you are, but not to think of yourself at all! In the Beatitudes (Mt 5.3-12) it is to be “poor in spirit” (v. 3) which is to inherit the kingdom of heaven. To be humble means to be meek, gentle, kind, patient, and mild. Several of these virtues are among the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5.22,23).

Jesus said elsewhere to take His yoke upon us and learn from Him, for He is gentle and lowly in heart, and we will find rest for our souls (Mt 11.29). This seems to go along with Jesus’ teaching that if His disciples want to be great they should serve others (Jn 13.4-17). Jesus gave up His prerogatives as God the Son and abased Himself by taking on human form and the humiliation of death on the cross in order save His people (Phil 2.6-11). We are called to have the same mind (v.5). Humanity tends because of the Fall to think too highly of itself. Jesus calls us to think realistically of ourselves as fallen people who deserve very little. But if we turn to Him, He will exalt us as His children (Rm 8.15; Gal 4.6). By forgetting ourselves we can receive the divine nature (2 Peter 1.4) with its love, joy, and peace. As at the feast, if we choose the lowly place in humility, we may be exalted. This is what happened to Jesus and we are striving to be like Him. And then we can invite into our company the “poor, the maimed, lame, and the blind”–those who are in need. This is what Jesus did, concentrating his attention on those He came to save. This included the prostitutes and tax collectors who were reviled by society, but it also even included the Pharisees and Scribes who thought so well of themselves. They were also the ones who would cry out to crucify Jesus, and He knew it! One of the advantages of humility is that your don’t have a lot of expectations about which to be disappointed. Like Jesus, when we face catastrophe, we are not surprised. Jesus has told us that if we want to be great, we should serve others. Serving Him and being of His mind is the secret of joy and fulfillment, and nothing can take this away from us. That is the heart of the gospel. How different this is from the goals of the Pharisees! They sought to achieve power and the approbation of men and hated the Father and the Son whom He sent. Jesus came to love people and show them the way to love others even when that meant sacrificing Himself for sinners (Rm 5.6,8). Jesus gave His life as a model for His disciples to follow. It is very difficult, because it contradicts our very human nature, but it is the Way, the Truth and the Life that conquers the forces of the world, the flesh, and the devil. It gives love, joy, and peace through the power of the Spirit which dwells in believers.

Memory Verse: Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (Mt 11.29).

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