Looking out like Christ for the Interests of Others, 31st Monday (II), October 31, 2016

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Monday of the 31st Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Votive Mass of the Mercy of God
October 31, 2016
Phil 2:1-4, Ps 131, Lk 14:12-14

 

To listen to an audio recording of this homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today on this All Hallow’s Eve, Jesus and St. Paul speak to us about the path to holiness. As we prepare not just to celebrate the Feast of All Saints but to make resolutions so that one day we may be in that number when the saints come marching in, let’s pay special attention to what the Holy Spirit gives us today in the epistle and Gospel.
  • On Friday, we began hearing St. Paul’s beautiful letter to the Philippians, which we will have throughout the week. Philippi was the first place in Europe to hear the Gospel. It was the place when, after St. Paul received the dream of a Macedonian asking him to come over, he left Troas and went on a boat to Neapolis, eventually coming to Philippi, a Roman colony with lots of disunity. It was there he met Lydia and stayed in her house. It was here he cured the possessed girl whom others were using for her divinations by the power of the devil. It was here he was thrown in jail and liberated by the earthquake. St. Paul had a special relationship with Philippi. It was the only place from which he accepted charity for himself, probably to give them a chance to repair for the sufferings he endured there. And he had a great desire for their unity and sanctity, and this letter is meant to help everyone come to unity. The real climax and center of the letter we would normally hear tomorrow, on Tuesday of the 31st Week in Ordinary Time, but because of All Saints Day, we will have the readings of the Solemnity instead. For that reason, I’d like to incorporate it today, because it flows immediately from this morning’s first reading. St. Paul says “Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus.” He calls us to put on Christ’s mind, to adapt ourselves to the Lord, to respond to his grace to think as Christ thinks, to will as Christ wills, to act as Christ acts. That’s his fundamental prayer for the Christians in Philippi and for the Christians in New York. That’s the path to holiness. That’s the proper context to understand what he says in today’s first reading: “Complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing.” Their unity will come about by their all attuning their minds and hearts to Christ’s. Once that happens then the rest of his prayer will come about: “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory,” because Christ did everything out of selflessness and for the Father’s glory. “Rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests but also everyone for those of others.” Christ regarded us as more important than himself, he gave his life to save our lives, he even though he was God became our servant so that we might enter into divine life. When we adopt Christ’s attitude, then we, too, will not act out of self-centeredness or for earthly fame but will seek God’s glory, kingdom and will. We will seek to follow Christ’s example of greatness by becoming the servant of all, by washing the feet of others, by giving our lives for their salvation. We seek, like he did, to empty ourselves and become a servant, obeying God all the way to death.
  • We see the attitude, the mindset, of Christ in today’s Gospel when he gives invitation advice to those who had been invited to a dinner with him, a dinner in which he cured a man with dropsy to their scandal (as we would have heard on Friday if we didn’t have the proper readings for the Feast of the Apostles Simon and Jude), a dinner in which he spoke about taking the lowest seats. He teaches us not to have dinner parties our of self-interest or for our own vanity or ambition — something that was probably taking place then as the creme de la creme were invited for the dinner with Jesus the famous rabbi — but out of charity, to serve others with love. “When you hold a lunch or a dinner,” Jesus said, “do not invite your friends or your brothers or sisters or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. 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.” Jesus’ advice is revolutionary, because most of us naturally invite to dinner those family and friends or people with whom we can do business or guests of honor that can make us feel important. Jesus is telling us to invite the nobodies, the handicapped, the overlooked and marginalized, those who often go without food not to mention don’t get invitations. This is precisely what he does at the Eucharist, inviting not just everybody including those who are challenged in any way, but us, who are often so poor in our relationship with him, crippled in our ability to do his work, lame in our ability to follow him when it gets strenuous, blind in our ability to see him in others or in various circumstances. He invites not just the Blessed Virgin and the guileless St. Bartholomew to dinner, but those who have betrayed him and will betray him, those who cannot possibly ever repay him. And he tells us to do the same.
  • I had the great, great joy last month of helping to organize at the United Nations a conference on St. Mother Teresa’s enduring relevance for the international community. There was an exhibition, a great conference, and finally a dinner. Our co-organizers wanted to pay for a dinner after the Conference at the exquisite Union League Club, but I said such a dinner would be out of the spirit of an event on Mother Teresa and something that likely her sisters would not come to. I proposed, rather, a dinner for the poor, held in the Parish Hall of Holy Family Church, in which the Archbishop, their CEO, I and others served the poor a really good meal in honor of Mother’s canonization. They went for it. I spoke to the Missionaries of Charity around the New York area to try to bring those they serve to the UN event and then to the meal. They filled two buses with a total of 112. Many asked to be bathed, and shaved, and to dress up for this event. At the UN, there’s a lot of talk about the poor, but it’s rare that you have so many really poor people present. And when I was speaking to the Superior of the Convent in Greenwich Village serving men with AIDS, Sister wanted to ask special permission to take several of them, because she said one of those with AIDS is also blind and in a wheel chair, another is deaf, and a few others have special circumstances. I told her immediately, “Of course they can come, Sister. They’re at the top of Jesus’ list and they’re at the top of ours!” And the poor were so happy. When we had left over food and I brought four trays of great Italian pasta on the buses for them to take back, one for each convent, I’ve never seen people clap with such happiness and gratitude in my life. It was a beautiful day, made possible because we took Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel seriously.
  • I’ve likewise always been moved by a story of Cardinal Antonio Tagle of Manila in the Philippines. In his previous assignment as Bishop of Imus, he used to take Jesus’ words literally and regularly invite the poor, the homeless, the drunks and those otherwise in great need to the bishop’s house for lunch and dinner at his table. Journalist John Allen tells a story that one woman called a shelter trying to find her brother, a drunk, and she was told that he was having lunch at the bishop’s residence. She thought it was a lie and a joke, but called the bishop’s residence to prove it. She asked for her brother and her brother came to the phone. Jesus didn’t give us today’s teaching merely as an inspiration. He wants us to take it seriously. When was the last time we invited people over to dinner that we’d normally never invite? When was the last time we invited someone who might not have had a familial meal in months or years? When have we invited the outsiders? Jesus wants us to have the same mind that he has.
  • The point I would like to stress today, however, on this vigil of All Saints, is what Jesus says at the end of passage. He tells those who act on his words and invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and 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.” He doesn’t just say at the “resurrection,” because we know that at the end of time, there will be the “resurrection of life” and the “resurrection of condemnation” (Jn 5:29), there will be the separation of the “sheep” and the “goats,” respectively, to the kingdom of the Father or to the fire prepared for the devil and his angels (Mt 25:31-46). Jesus says specifically that those who do this will be repaid at the resurrection of the “righteous.” The only way we’ll be repaid there is if we are indeed righteous. Jesus is indicating to us a clear path to heaven by acting on what he’s teaching today: the actual act of inviting and caring for those who cannot pay for us, as well as the spiritual point of not doing things in any circumstance in order to be repaid. The path to being celebrated on All Saints Day in future centuries may be as simple as this, by loving and caring for those who can’t reward us here, because in so doing, we will be having the same attitude as found in Christ Jesus and pouring ourselves out kenotically like Christ. We will be humbly regarding others as more important than ourselves, looking out not for our own interests but also for those of others.
  • Today as we come to the altar with all our handicaps, Jesus seeks to nourish us with himself so that having his mind and heart we may make room at this table for all those who are not here who need Jesus just as much as we do, and to make room at our our tables and in our lives, for those Jesus loves so much that he gave his life to save.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 phil 2:1-4

Brothers and sisters:
If there is any encouragement in Christ,
any solace in love,
any participation in the Spirit,
any compassion and mercy,
complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love,
united in heart, thinking one thing.
Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory;
rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves,
each looking out not for his own interests,
but also everyone for those of others.

Responsorial Psalm ps 131:1bcde, 2, 3

R. In you, O Lord, I have found my peace.
O LORD, my heart is not proud,
nor are my eyes haughty;
I busy not myself with great things,
nor with things too sublime for me.
R. In you, O Lord, I have found my peace.
Nay rather, I have stilled and quieted
my soul like a weaned child.
Like a weaned child on its mother’s lap,
so is my soul within me.
R. In you, O Lord, I have found my peace.
O Israel, hope in the LORD,
both now and forever.
R. In you, O Lord, I have found my peace.

Gospel lk 14:12-14

On a sabbath Jesus went to dine
at the home of one of the leading Pharisees.
He said to the host who invited him,
“When you hold a lunch or a dinner,
do not invite your friends or your brothers or sisters
or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors,
in case they may invite you back and you have repayment.
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.”
mafa_poorfeast_710