“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk 14:11).
With these words, Jesus ends his parable about people jockeying for seats of honor, when in fact it is the prerogative of the host to determine the seating. Jesus also addressed this same issue with the Apostles when James and John requested to sit, one on his right and the other on his left when he would come in his glory (cf. Mark 10:35-45). True humility is submitting ourselves to the will of God and acting as he directs such that he is given the primacy of place, not us.
A memory of mine from third grade sticks with me and that is the feeling one day of someone watching me in the classroom. The feeling was not my classmates or the teacher. I do not believe I was paranoid, nor do I now. What I think the experience was about was me starting to be aware of me from the outside of myself, kind of looking in at myself as I perceived others as seeing me.
Maybe this was the awakening of my ego. I am no psychiatrist, this is all speculation on my part, but I feel as if that memory and today’s Gospel reading has converged. Too often throughout my life I have made decisions seeking others’ approval and just as often, I have chosen my actions regarding perceived opinions, not actual decisions requested of me directly. These perceived opinions were much more subtle in nature, but also could multiply so to be debilitating at times when I sought to make a decision.
What I am coming to realize, is that it is more important to align myself with God’s will for my life. This does not mean that I am turning my back on family, friends, and colleagues, but in point of fact, by coming to a better understanding of God’s will, I am more authentic in my interactions with others instead of operating from a posture of appeasement, which is more disingenuous. In so doing, I am better able to be present to others for their needs and not my own.
What may have been going on with those at dinner seeking the closer seats to the host, what impelled James and John to want to sit at Jesus’ right and left when he came into his glory, was that they were seeking honor, prestige, glory, acceptance to feed their egos, their false senses of self. Jesus is teaching us to instead align our energy and seek God’s will and we will find the fulfillment and joy that we seek. This is the transformation we saw happen in Peter. He protected himself at the cost of denying Jesus three times but forgiven by the mercy of Jesus he gave himself in love to serve him and his Church unto his death.
May we seek freedom from indecision, mental distractions, and temptations that we entertain to protect our own ego. Let us pray instead for a clearer mind, heart, and spirit that can discern clearly the will of God, and the courage and confidence to act upon his leading without hesitation. May we surrender our ego to God, and as Mother Teresa is known for saying, become a simple pencil in God’s hand. Instead of seeking honor, recognition, and praise, let our intention rather be to follow God’s leading and to serve others unconditionally, willing their good. In dying to our ego-self, may we go forward today living for Jesus. In our baptism we have been crucified with Christ, so it is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us (cf. Galatians 2:20).