Years ago I remember reading in The Tablet an article by the author – the then Chief Rabbi (Reform Judaism) of Great Britain – of a regular, monthly column. Therein he reminisced about some of the parties, celebrations and soirees he had attended, and referred to having had to
‘stand with a smidgen of smoked salmon in one had and a glass of sparkling wine masquerading as champagne in the other.’ Then, he went on to reflect upon the apparent need of too many hosts and hostesses to entertain pretentiously in a manner which was to ‘show off’ that they had the means to entertain in a manner which others could not afford.
TODAY’S OLD TESTAMENT EXTRACT [SIRACH 3: 17 – 20. 28 – 29] (if you cannot find SIRACH in your index look for ECCLESIASTICUS), and then add the verses of TODAY’S GOSPEL [LUKE 14: 1. 7 – 14].
It really is no good to keep the Gospel message in the realm of ideas
. The world in which we live requires more from individual Christians and the way we respond to the realities of life and living. WE HAVE TO BECOME REAL, LIVING AND PRACTICAL. It is hypocrisy to ‘masquerade as champagne’ when in our day-to-day living we are even less than sparkling wine. The Book of Sirach puts it this way: “the affliction of the proud has no healing, for a plant of wickedness has taken root in them.”
Then, our Gospel tells us that when Jesus was
invited to the house of a ruler “they were watching him.” Those who know we are both Christian and Catholic are in some real way watching us. Do they only see a masquerade?We need to be aware of the fact that, as recorded in today’s Gospel, the Lord is also watching us – “he marked how they chose the places of honour.” At the same time do not overlook a snippet from TODAY’S NEW TESTAMENT READING [HEBREWS 12: 18 – 19. 22 – 24a] where we are told that we have come “to a judge who is God of all.”
WE ARE NO LONGER IN THE REALM OF IDEAS
and a smidgin of the real thing simply does not do the job. WE MUST DARE TO BE DIFFERENT. In order to achieve this we need to ‘breathe with both lungs’ – both the Gospel challenge and an ongoing, honest, self-appraisal. Add to this sort of ‘breathing’ a wariness of flattery which is received together with avoiding the giving of it. Yes, we need to affirm people who have achieved or done something worthwhile but there is an enormous difference between flattery and affirmation. There is in most of us an attraction to status and grandeur. Our Gospel extract illustrates this so well. Affirmation seeks no return; flattery always does – it hopes for influence, power and support based on specific interests. You should need no illustration in this regard if take a look at the endemic corruption in our current political fiasco. As we have seen: “the affliction of the proud has no healing, for a plant of wickedness has taken root in them.”
Yet, we all need a change in outlook as well as a change in language. As Pope Francis has said:
“an unhealthy dualism left a mark on certain Christian thinkers ….. and disfigured the Gospel.” In so many areas the broad horizon of the Gospel challenge has eclipsed our focus and our approach and introduced in all of us “an unhealthy dualism.” The Gospel challenge must not be contrived. Rather, it must be found and uncovered.
Today’s Gospel points very clearly to the fact that we have, first of all, to discover a consciousness of our Christian identity as disciples and believers. We must become free from any pretension to superiority or hopes of gain as a result of any flattery – given or received. There must be no masquerade while a smidgin of the real thing is counterproductive. We must not be afraid to see the truth, embrace it, and tell it to the world. When we fail in this, the Gospel loses its value and – even – its reason for existing.
Yes, there are risks but as an Irish poet has written –
“no poem or play or song can fully right a wrong inflicted or endured.” (SEAMUS HEANEY)
TODAY’S PSALM [68 or 67] tells us – we must “make music to his name. The Lord is his name.”