On Jesus' Humility

“Christ Himself Took the Lowest Place”

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 29, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Angelus with crowds gathered at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

In this Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 14:1, 7-14) we encounter Jesus dining in the house of one of the leaders of the Pharisees. Noting that the guests take the first places at table, he tells a parable set at a wedding feast. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor at table. A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited, and the host who invited you and him may approach you and say, ‘Give your place to this man!’ … Rather, when you are invited, take the last place” (Luke 14:8-10). 

The Lord does not intend to give a lesson on etiquette nor on the hierarchy among different authorities. He is insisting on a decisive point having to do with humility: “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11). 

The deeper meaning of this parable makes us also think about man’s position in relation to God. The “last place” can, in fact, represent the condition of humanity degraded by sin, the condition from which the Incarnation of the only begotten Son alone can free it. For this reason Christ himself “took the lowest place in the world — the Cross — and by this radical humility he redeemed us and constantly comes to our aid” (“Deus Caritas Est,” 35).

At the end of the parable Jesus suggests to the leader of the Pharisees that he not invite his friends, family or rich neighbors to his table but the poorest people and the marginalized, who are unable to pay him back (cf. Luke 14:13-14), so that the gift be gratuitous. In the end the greatest recompense will be given by God, “who governs the world. … We offer him our service only to the extent that we can, and for as long as he grants us the strength” (“Deus Caritas Est,” 35). 

Once again, therefore, we gaze upon Christ as model of humility and gratuity: from him we learn patience in temptations, meekness when we are offended, obedience to God in suffering, waiting for him who invited us to say to us: “Friend, come up higher!” (cf. Luke 14:10); the true good, in fact, is to be near him. 

St. Louis IX, King of France — whose memorial was observed last Wednesday — put into practice what is written in the Book of Sirach: “The greater you are, the more you must humble yourself, and you will find grace before the Lord” (3:18). In his spiritual testament to his son he wrote: “If the Lord gives you some prosperity, not only must you humbly thank him, but take good care and do not become worse because of vainglory or something else, take care not to enter into conflict with God or offend him with his own gifts” (“Acta Sanctorum Augusti” 5 [1868], 546).

Dear friends, today we recall the martyrdom of St. John the Baptist, the greatest among the prophets of Christ, who knew how to deny himself to make room for the Savior, and who suffered and died for the truth. Let us ask him and the Virgin Mary to guide us along the way of humility to become worthy of the divine recompense.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic] [After the Angelus the Holy Father greeted those present in various languages. Ii English he said:]

I am pleased to greet the English-speaking visitors here today, especially the group of students from the Pontifical North American College. I pray that all of you, whether you are here on holiday or on pilgrimage or pursuing studies in Rome, will be able to draw closer to the Lord in prayer and thanksgiving. May God bestow abundant blessings upon all of you, and upon your families and loved ones at home.

© Copyright 2010 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

[And he concluded his greetings in Italian:]

I wish everyone a good Sunday.

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