04 November. Saturday, Week 30
I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel?
So I ask, have they stumbled so as to fall? By no means! But through their stumbling salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their stumbling means riches for the world, and if their defeat means riches for Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!
So that you may not claim to be wiser than you are, brothers and sisters, I want you to understand this mystery: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved; as it is written, "Out of Zion will come the Deliverer; he will banish ungodliness from Jacob." "And this is my covenant with them, when I take away their sins." As regards the gospel they are enemies of God for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved, for the sake of their ancestors; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, and they were watching him closely.
When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honour, he told them a parable. "When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honour, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, 'Give this person your place,' and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, 'Friend, move up higher;' then you will be honoured in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."
Unlike the evangelists, Paul's gospel does not even attempt to gather up and record the words and deeds of Jesus. Rather his gospel is about the risen Lord, alive now within the community. Every action and word among the believers becomes an action or statement of the "body of Christ." What joy filled the heart of Paul and what holiness was transmitted to others, by simply mentioning the name "Christ." With this name he felt he could sweep aside all envy and envy among the faithful.
In this great letter to the Romans, Christ is seen as both the treasure and the vocation of the gentiles. They are drawn into the grace of Christ and are called to spread his spirit in the world. This unusual turn of events brings Paul to think of his own people, the tribes of Israel, who as a group refused to recognize Jesus as Lord and Messiah, though many of them did become disciples. But as Paul sees it, as a nation, they were overcome by blindness. Rather than discuss the baffling "mystery" of Judaism's destiny, our meditation here can focus on Paul's word, "blindness." How much anger and impatience would be spared, how much kindness and gentleness manifested, if we would stop judging people's motives. Even if we are in the right, our approach to others would be so much more in accord with Scripture if we would only attribute good intentions and divine grace to those who differ with us. "God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew." Also, the divergent viewpoint in our neighbour may enable us to see our own position of faith all the more clearly. "Blindness has come on part of Israel until the full number of Gentiles enter in. Paul adds, "Then Israel will be saved," but only when we ourselves are fully dedicated to the gospel which is the person of Christ. What hinders conversion is not our ignorance of truth but our lack of joy and enthusiasm "in Christ."
Too many good people want their good works to be publicly praised; they consciously or unconsciously pull rank so as to sit in the place of honour. In today's parable Jesus is kindly refers to this common weakness of even good people. Hence his advice to Sit in the lowest place, to let the host then say, My friend, come up higher. Then you have honour. He seems to be saying: "If you must seek esteem, at least go about it in a modest way." The gospel ends with the hardest challenge of all, be humble. This call to be humble is a stumbling block to us all, even if it leads to exaltation by God.
The final phrase in today's gospel applies above all to Jesus' own life, "whoever humbles himself will be exalted." We are told how Jesus emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, and then humbled himself yet further, even unto death on a cross. Having so humbled himself, he was exalted by God and becomes the source of our salvation.
In order to serve others Jesus was prepared to be dishonoured, enduring the shame of crucifixion. But in this way he won the only honour worth having, honour from God. Our blessed Lord invites his followers to take the path that he took, the path of humble service of others .. and ultimately receive due honour from God. He criticizes those who look for honour at banquets, whose primary goal in life is social recognition and celebrity. For him the highest goal in life is to do God's will, which requires that we do humble service to others.