Father James Swanson, LC
Listen to podcast version here.
Luke 14:1, 7-11
On a sabbath Jesus went to dine
at the home of one of the leading Pharisees,
and the people there were observing him carefully. He
told a parable to those who had been invited, noticing
how they were choosing the places of honor at
the table. "When you are invited by someone to
a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the
place of honor. A more distinguished guest than you
may have been invited by him, and the host
who invited both of you may approach you and say,
´Give your place to this man,´ and then you
would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place.
Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest
place so that when the host comes to you
he may say, ´My friend, move up to a higher
position.´ Then you will enjoy the esteem of your
companions at the table. For everyone who exalts himself
will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will
Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe in you
with a faith that never seeks to test you.
I trust in you, hoping to learn to accept
and follow your will, even when it does not make
sense to the way that I see things. May
my love for you and those around me be similar
to the love you have shown to me.
Petition: Lord, please help me to replace
my selfishness with love.
1. I Want to Hear
All about Myself: Sooner or later we all experience the
displeasure of having to be around someone who is
always promoting himself. Perhaps we do it ourselves, without
realizing how it disgusts the people around us. I
remember working with one such fellow myself. He was the
nicest guy in the world otherwise, but he consistently
and continually talked about himself. He was his own
favorite subject. It was his only noticeable flaw, but a
fatal one. I’m sure he didn’t realize it. Probably
if you asked him if he talked about himself
more than other people talk about themselves, he would
have answered that he talked about himself about the same
amount as others do. He had plenty of other
virtues, and I’m sure if he had rid himself
of his major flaw he would have been one of
the most well-liked people where I worked. But he
was always putting himself in first place, and in
our hearts we were always putting him in one of
the last places.
2. Number One in your Heart:
On the other hand, you sometimes run into people who
don’t wave their own flag. They seem to exist
to support and help others. Maybe you don’t always
notice when they are around, but you notice the effects.
Everyone is happier. There is less stress. People seem
less worried. These people grease the wheels. If you
need a hand, they’ll give it to you and you
don’t even need to ask. Their support and friendship
are givens. You know you can count on them.
They are assets wherever they work because they know how
to make the people around them more effective. Everybody
likes them. They may not have the greatest personality
or a lot of social skills, but nobody cares
because the goodness seems to just ooze out of them.
While they seem unassuming and unimportant, everyone who is
around them prizes them highly. Without even realizing it,
they are at the highest places in everyone’s hearts.
I Develop my Ambition or my Love? Which kind
of person am I? Am I a shameless self-promoter,
always focused on getting as much for Number One as
possible? This strategy might work well in a company
where people are faceless widgets instead of personalities, where
the bottom line is the bottom line, but it
is never very successful in real life relationships. Perhaps I
do what I can to help others whenever I
can, to make others feel good. That is the way
to real fulfillment. After all, Jesus said that those
who wanted to be first must be the last
of all and the servant of all. Have I been
foolish enough to think that Jesus was saying that
the way to achieve my ambitions is to serve? No
way. Jesus isn’t concerned with us achieving ambitions, he
is telling us how to be first in hearts.
If you want to be first in hearts, be a
servant of all. If you have the humility to
serve others, you will attain to a high place in
others’ hearts. When you take a low place, they
will always raise you higher.
Conversation with Christ: Dear Jesus,
I am always trying to serve myself and my
ambitions, and you want me to be concerned with
serving others. Help me to be more focused on what
really matters – loving – than on what the
world prizes – empty, self-serving actions.
Resolution: Today, I will
perform some act of service for another person, preferably
for someone close to me, preferably without their notice.
These are the acts that most deeply express love.
Remember, if you expect something in return, even just thanks,
it isn’t love, it’s business.