Keep that ego in check
LUKE 14:1, 7–14
by Janine Aqui
Throughout the Holy Bible from the Old Testament, “My child, perform your task with humility, then you will be loved by those who God accepts (Sir 3:17–18); to the New Testament, as in today’s gospel, we find a recurring exhortation to exercise humility, to know one’s place, to underestimate one’s importance, and in short, to keep that ego in check. Why is this necessary? Why did Jesus give this parable?
God knows human nature. He fully understands how easily we are lulled into a false sense of pride, how quickly we allow our ego to inflate, and how readily we normalise the unacceptable ways. His guidance is based on precisely what we are capable of becoming if we do not embrace and adhere to His way. Jesus gives us a parable, a gentle behavioural lesson to apply daily, in every situation.
Not everyone has learned social skills, and for many of us, we are unaware of basic good manners and considerate behaviour. We approach life in a manner which is solely about our self-interests, we speak words to promote our importance, and our actions display dominance, without care or concern for others. We experience this driving on our roads, in our schools, at work and business places, even in our families and communities. The modus operandi seems to be ‘It is all about me, me, me!’
Jesus recommends, “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take your seat in the place of honour. A more distinguished person than you may have been invited, and the person who invited you both may come and say, ‘Give up your place to this man’. And then, to your embarrassment, you would have to go and take the lowest place.”
The lesson here is that it is not up to us to decide that we deserve honour, and take an honourable place. As a guest invited to participate in the celebration, we are there to celebrate with others. Not chest thump, but to contribute to the joyfulness. Not bring embarrassment to ourselves but to join the gathering.
The parable continues to guide us, “No; when you are a guest, make your way to the lowest place and sit there, so that when your host comes, he may say, “My friend, move up higher’. In that way, everyone with you at the table will see you honoured. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the man who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Many of us have personally experienced our own ballooned egos bringing out the worst in us, subsequently and inevitably, deflating in humiliation, and excruciatingly embarrassing fashion. This is a moment to learn how and why we should avoid this internally created ‘landmine’, the self-defeating ego.
Jesus ends the parable with a valuable lesson on hospitality. “When you give a lunch or dinner, do not ask your friends, brothers, relations or rich neighbours, for fear they repay your courtesy by inviting you in return. No, when you have a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; that they cannot pay you back means that you are fortunate, because repayment will be made to you when the virtuous rise again.”
No doubt we enjoy, and seek the company of our family, friends, and particularly those whose company we assume beneficial to our social status, financial aspirations, and who prop-up, legitimising our ego.
Whatever reciprocation we anticipate and may receive, is momentary, meaningless, and worthless in the Kingdom of God. These trivialities are incomparable to God’s blessings. To believe in the intangible worth of others who are less fortunate financially, physically, emotionally, is to understand equality and to appreciate all God’s family, not some, all.
To extend kindness, to show compassion, to alleviate another’s suffering, to bring joy to those outside ‘our circle and clique’ is to demonstrate our love for God, more so when done quietly without live streaming, selfies, and social media posts.
As we start a new week, we are encouraged to erase and replace egotism by practising humility, to minimise and forego self-gratification by giving comfort to those in need.
Today’s gospel is a call to action for every man, woman and child. By consciously heeding God’s call, we will have life eternal, and thus, will be invited by Him to an honourable place at His table.
The gospel reflections for September are by Janine Aqui, parishioner of St Ann’s RC Church, St Ann’s Parish, and Our Lady of the Assumption RC Church, Toco-Matelot Parish. She is foremost a proud Catholic, working daily to become the best version of herself.