500 Years of Christianity Countdown

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Wk. XXII-C, 28 August 2016
Sirach 3:17-18,20,28-29//Hebrews 12:18-19,22-24//Luke 14:1,7-14

“Some experts say that a preoccupation with seating arrangements is a sign of deep insecurity. Managers who worry too much about things like what pen they’re using and what they’re wearing are probably part of a dysfunctional team. After all, in an ideal world, what should matter in any discussion is not where you sit, but where you stand.”

That gem of wisdom is from my former boss and friend Atty. Dan Albert S. De Padua who writes a weekly column, “The Long Lunch” in BusinessMirror after retiring early this year from TV5. Like most of our conversations when we were still at GMA-7 News, whether in the newsroom or bar, I have always treasured his views and reflections about life that have greatly contributed to my decision of becoming a priest more than 20 years ago. But that is a different story…

Going back to Atty. Dan’s March 29, 2016 piece about seating arrangements in board meetings, I think that is no different from our preferred seating arrangement anywhere else whether in the church or a theater, in a bus or a PUJ. Like what our Lord Jesus Christ had noticed in our Gospel today, people are so concerned where to sit, forgetting the fact that in life, what really matters most is where we stand which demands humility.

On a Sabbath Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people were observing him carefully. He told a parable to those who had been invited, noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor. A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him, and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place. Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, ‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’ Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Lk.14:1,7-11)

More than a “table talk,” Jesus is reminding us today of the virtue of humility that has become so rare especially in this age when we are saturated with media where everyone is a “bida” or a star. When Jesus declared “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted,” He is not asking us to take the backseat or the lowest position so that we would be raised up. That is false humility. True humility is simply being truthful by taking our proper place before others and most especially with God. We have a beautiful Tagalog expression for that, “kumilos sa lugar” and “lumagay sa dapat kalagyan.” Both expressions mean to be in one’s proper place because humility is also closely linked with wisdom that guides us through life. This is the main theme of Ben Sirach in his Old Testament book also known as Ecclesiasticus. See how he addressed the reader of his book in our first reading today that expresses a feeling of bowing before someone higher or older worthy of respect: “My child, conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts. Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God.” (Sir.3:17-18) When we were growing up, I remember almost every elderly, whether relatives or not, used to refer to us children as anak (child) or sometimes as hijo (son) and hija (daughter). How I miss being called then as son or child by others aside from my own parents! Such words are so comforting and reassuring too. And that is how God our Father is! For as long as we humbly make a stand for His precepts and will, He would surely exalt us.

This virtue of humility is underscored in today’s parable because its context is beyond the Sabbath meal that Jesus had attended. The parable is about “a wedding banquet” which is the very sign and symbol of the kingdom of God in heaven where we all have specific seats – if and only if – we make a clear and strong stand here on earth for the Gospel values of Christ. Foremost among these is preferential option for the poor that we in the Church, especially the clergy and hierarchy must confess is far from its realization. So sad to admit that wonderful phrase “preferential option for the poor” exists only in our social documents also known as “best kept secrets of the Church.” When Jesus narrated the second parable to His host, He was referring to that great feast in heaven awaiting us all where we would be seated in places of honor because we would be with the Father in all eternity after making a stand, a preferential option for the poor! “Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Lk.14:13-14)

In these times we in the clergy and hierarchy are strongly challenged and shaken by the fact that people no longer listen to us, when public officials dare to go against the Church’s very teachings from Christ, I still find the great silver linings of the storm we’re into. What a blessing that finally, we have been thrown off from our comfortable seats of power and influence. Gone are those days when some of us would rub elbows and literally lord over with politicians and public officials. Having been unseated from those seats we should have never dared taken in the first place, present situation calls us to make that firm stand for Jesus Christ and His gospel values by defending life especially the marginalized. On this feast of St. Augustine, let us remember his teaching that “humility is a sign of Christ” pointing to that great invisible reality of His kingdom and of His very self. Let us not be concerned where we would sit but rather where we stand. A blessed week ahead!

Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista
Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan.