22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Stuff about table manners might not seem desperately important but we need to be careful. A simple headache might be a sign of a far more serious condition. Our table manners may say something about the state of our souls.
Don’t presume the best seat is for you, in other words don’t presume you are the best. On the other hand don’t all start rushing for the lowest place. Rather calmly and modestly follow the directions of your host, the one who laid the table and chose the places – and do it with humility and good grace. It is common sense – though it is not as common nowadays as one might hope.
It is easy to see a spiritual meaning here. Our Lord is the one who prepares the meal and assigns our places – act appropriately.
There is advice for the host too. Don’t invite people for your own sake and your own gain. Invite them out of generosity for their own sake. We can see two spiritual meanings here. First Our Lord gains nothing by his death and resurrection, by opening the gates of heaven to us, by inviting us to the supper of the lamb in heaven - it is done for us and for our sake. Second by inviting the poor, the lame we invite Christ to our table. An early sermon on this Gospel says “if you object that the poor are unclean then wash them yourselves, if you think their clothes are dirty give them new clothes – for Christ comes to you through these people”.
Like the headache that reveals the brain tumour so pride and the desire for reward reveals someone in whom as the first reading says – an evil growth has taken root. Such a person sets their store by respect, position and wealth on earth – yet all of the earth will end. Bad manners at table may reveal a bad heart.
Real lasting respect, position and wealth is revealed in the second reading. It is the festival of the heavenly Jerusalem, it is God, the place where, the one in whom, everyone is a first born son.
Knowing this, that our life, our hope our happiness lies not in this earth but in heaven and that our time on earth is a preparation for eternity means that whatever our position or wealth or gifts in this life we act always with gentleness, humility, and good grace.
As you know I’m not one for great emotional displays and I firmly believe Mass should be about the Blessed Trinity not the priest and the priest should be about Christ not himself. But let me just say that though I am sorry to be leaving I am so pleased that you are getting three priests. I have been proud to tell Fathers Ethelbert, Stephen and Peter how kind and helpful so many of you have been to me, and to assure them you will continue to be so.
I haven’t been able to do all the things that I wanted to do but I hope I have acted with gentleness, humility and good grace. I thank you for your prayers and patience. And I know you will extend them to your new priests. Let us say together the creed expressing the faith that unites us wherever we are.