Sir 3:17-18, 20, 28-29; Heb 12:18-19, 22-24a; Lk 14:1,7-14
Daughter (8): Is Aunty Diane having her baby today? Mother: Why did you think she is about to give birth? Daughter (8): Because you said today was Labor Day!
Roland, a businessman, is on his deathbed so he calls his friend and says, ‘Eli, I want you to promise me that when I die you will have my remains cremated.’ ‘And what,’ Eli asks, ‘do you want me to do with your ashes?’ Roland replies, ‘Just put them in an envelope and mail them to the Internal Revenue Service and write on the envelope, ‘Now you have everything.’
As I wish you all a Happy Labor Day weekend, let me share with you this year’s U.S Bishops official Statement: “Labor Day is an opportunity to take stock of the ways workers are honored and respected. Earlier this year, Pope Francis pointed out, ‘Work is fundamental to the dignity of a person…It gives one the ability to maintain oneself, one’s family, to contribute to the growth of one’s own nation.’” The Statement goes on: “Whenever possible we should support businesses and enterprises that protect human life and dignity, pay just wages, and protect workers’ rights. We should support immigration policies that bring immigrant workers out of the shadows to a legal status and offer them a just and fair path to citizenship, so that their human rights are protected and the wages for all workers rise…On this Labor Day 2013, let us renew our commitment to promote the dignity of the human person through work that is honorable…and recognizes the God-given dignity of the working person.”
Reflecting on the scripture reading for this weekend, we see the common theme of today’s readings is the need for true humility which leads to a generous blessed sharing with the needy. The readings warn us against all forms of pride and self-glorification. They present humility not only as a virtue but also as a means of opening our hearts, our minds and our hands to the poor, the needy, the disadvantaged and the marginalized of society. The first reading, from the book of Sirach, reminds us that if we are humble, we will find favor with God, and others will love us. The second reading, from Hebrews, gives another reason for us to be humble. Jesus was humble, so his followers are expected to be humble, trying to imitate his humility.
Today’s Gospel contains two teachings of similar styles. Both start with when, “When you go to a banquet” and ” When you give a banquet.” Both have a cautioning phrase, don’t. “Don’t sit at a high place, lest you be put down,” and “Don’t put out a spread for the rich to impress them, lest you already receive your reward.” Here Jesus is not playing Miss Manners. He is teaching us the proper way to view ourselves and others. He is teaching us about honor, respect, and, particularly, about humility.
The first dinner instruction speaks about whom we are before the Lord. We are told that we shouldn’t think so highly of ourselves that we put ourselves over other people. Symbolically, we shouldn’t move to the best table at the banquet thinking that we are so much better than everyone else.
And who are we before the Lord? We are people with gifts and with shortcomings, just like everyone else. Our value, comes from God’s gracious gift of His Love to us. What matters is what He has given us, not what we have taken on ourselves. What matters is where He places us at the table of the Banquet of Love, not where we think we should be seated.
The second part of the gospel speaks about honoring people for favors to come later. This teaching is in direct contrast to the “What’s in it for me mentality,” that motivates so many people. Christians are to be different from the people of the world. The second dinner instruction, about not looking for pay-backs, tells us to be sincere. The Christian attitude should be to care genuinely for others, not try to buy them. We need to be concerned with whom others are, not what they can do for us. When we do that we are honoring the Lord who is present within them. Jesus says, “Invite those who cannot repay you.”
The two dinner instructions remind us that we are not the center of the world. God is. Our value does not come from how others view us. Our success is not due to what others can do for us. Our value, our success comes from our relationship to our Center, our God. That is humility. We need to honor and respect every individual and not ill-treat because of one’s social status.
Labor Day quote: “Don’t worry about being a success, worry about doing good work, and all that will come to you”.