A New Low

Tuesday of the 31st Week in Ordinary Time

Philippians 2:6-11; Luke 14:15-24


Today’s Election Day in the USA, so I suppose it’s appropriate to use an image from the campaign trail….

A former First Lady is fond of telling those at campaign rallies, “When they go low, we go high.”  In other words, when one’s political opponents resort to negative and divisive messages appealing to fear, anger and prejudice, the appropriate response is not to get into the gutter with them but rather to appeal to the best in people and their hopes and aspirations. 

Paradoxically, in our first reading St. Paul urges us to a new low.  It is in the kenotic (self-emptying) way of Christ.  God’s Son first emptied himself in the mystery of the Incarnation and in his life among us, and then he did it in a total and brutally vivid way on the cross. 

That same kind of divine humility is on display in today’s gospel reading.  Jesus tells the story of a man who gives a great dinner only to have his invited guests scorn the invitation because they have seemingly better things to do.  (That’s a polite way of saying they blow him off.)  Embarrassed and angered, he fills his dining hall with a bunch of people who are on the margins of society, the kind of people with whom no supposedly “self-respecting” person would socialize.  At the same time, the man displays a profound but less evident humility.  In the end, it is more important to feed people at the banquet than to petulantly cancel the whole thing out of wounded pride.

Isn’t that the way it is with God?  As Pope Francis has often observed, the Eucharist isn’t a reward for the righteous but rather nourishment and balm for sinners. As St. Francis observed, it is another sign of divine humility that our Savior gives us himself to us in the form of bread.

When the world goes high—in arrogance, indifference, self-righteousness, self-importance and hatred—Jesus tells us to go to a new low…and shows us. JC