Imagine you are hosting a dinner and one of your guests starts lecturing the other guests on how to behave; or says to you that your motive for having the dinner is only so that you can be invited back. It would be rude! But that’s precisely what Jesus does, without apology and with characteristic reassurance, in today’s Gospel.
But he’s doing it out of love. Wanting the best seat or wanting pay-back for putting on a dinner are expressions of selfishness. Jesus wants selflessness for his fellow guests and host. The selflessness of humility and of generosity, of giving without looking for repayment.
What Jesus is really doing here is opening his own heart. He is revealing that God is humble and generous. It is Jesus who has taken the lowest seat, by emptying himself to become man in the manger and saviour on the Cross. The true glory of God is not now seen as it was in the Old Testament in a smoking and fiery mountain, with loud trumpet blast and a terrifying voice. No, the true glory of God is seen in Jesus, meek and humble of heart, washing the feet of his friends, giving them his body and blood and dying for their sins.
Jesus is also the true host. He invites all to approach his table with sincerity of heart. Think, across the centuries, how many have been fed at the banquet of the altar. The lame, the blind, the poor, the repentant sinner. And what has he received in return? Only each of us can answer how we have responded to the gift of the Eucharist, but certainly we know that all Jesus wants from us is a living faith and a sincere love.
The selflessness of Jesus shows us who God is, the true nature of God. God is pure and utter selflessness. The three divine persons give themselves ceaselessly and eternally to each other in complete self-giving. This is what they have also done for us. This pouring out of God into the hearts and bodies of those who will receive him is God’s glory, is God’s humility, is God’s love. That pouring out is most powerfully seen on the Cross, where every last drop of blood flows from the body of Christ. It is again seen in the pouring out of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Indeed, the blood was poured out so that the Spirit could also be poured out.
And the Lord has done this so that we, too, would have the power to pour ourselves out for one another. We can do it in so many little and big ways, giving way to one another, replacing criticism with compassion, reaching out to help others instead of being lost in self-concern, giving more time to prayer and good works and less to attending to our own likes and dislikes. While our society today in many ways seeks to entrap us in selfishness, it also offers vast horizons for us to bring the power of the Spirit in humble service to those in need.
Let’s imitate Jesus, not only by doing humble and selfless things but by being humble and selfless people. It is his Spirit who gives us the power to be like him. Ask, then, the Holy Spirit with me: Come, Holy Spirit, and fill our hearts with Jesus. Expel from us all selfishness, arrogance and pride. Make our hearts gentle and humble so that others will see God’s glory in us and be drawn to you. Amen.