Dear Parishioners and Friends,
You may remember the painting on the cover of the bulletin for Easter Sunday, April 17, 2022. It was a detail of a painting by the Swiss artist, Eugène Burnand, titled “The disciples Peter and John running to the tomb on the morning of Resurrection.” Burnand painted many religious works during his career, and also created illustrations for books such as The Parables and an English translation of The Little Flowers of St. Francis in 1919, a few years before his death in 1921.
The painting on the cover of today’s bulletin is also a work by Burnand entitled, “L’Invitation au festin” (Invitation to the feast), painted in 1899-90. It is housed in the Winterthur Art Museum in Winterthur, Switzerland and measures approximately seven by fifteen feet.
Reflecting on today’s Gospel (Luke 14:7-14), Burnand beautifully captures the image Jesus describes: “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.” As you can see in the full painting, the very people Jesus mentions are being led by the hand to a large banquet hall with servants bringing in the meal that is to be served. A young man, perhaps a steward of the master, awaits the arrival of the guests: young and old, downtrodden yet curious.
Earlier in the Gospel, Jesus offers a lesson on humility. I remember when, as a young friar, spending a summer at St. Francis Church in New York, I went out for a walk one evening with a couple other friars. We found ourselves in the theater district and decided to get standing-room tickets to a play; I think it was “Deathtrap.” It was also my first time in a Broadway theater. We took our place in the back of the theater and had a perfect view of the stage. About half an hour into the play, one of the friars suggested that we move down to three empty seats in the orchestra. I wasn’t too keen on the idea but went along with it. We scurried down the aisle and quickly settled into the seats. Not a minute or two later, an usher came along with the ticket holders and we were forced to relinquish the seats and slink back up the aisle to our original places. That experience has been forever burned into my memory, and whenever I read this Gospel passage, I think of that moment of great embarrassment!
Surely, a theme in today’s readings is humility. C.S. Lewis once wrote that the virtue of humility “is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” As we hear the words of Jesus in the Gospel, this is precisely what we are invited to do by allowing space at the head of the table for others to be honored above ourselves. Jesus gave us the ultimate example of humility be becoming one of us, completely reliant on Mary and Joseph as an infant and child, handing himself over to be crucified, and allowing himself to be consumed by us in the Eucharist.
However, I don’t believe that Jesus intended us to be a door mat to be walked on by others. He wants us to always be conscious of our human dignity, but he also desires that we find our true selves in becoming more and more like him. “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Blessings on your week ahead.
Fr. Tim Shreenan, O.F.M.