The gospel today (Lk 14:1, 7-14) is Jesus’ invitation to humility of heart. Having been invited to a luscious banquet, the Lord uses the occasion to teach and to challenge people to have a lowly heart.

It is easy to understand the way of humility addressed to the guests.  They are not to choose the better seats reserved for people of higher dignity. They are to wait for the host to show them their proper place. This is how we normally understand humility, not to think of ourselves as deserving, entitled or better than others.

But a complete picture of true humility is seen in Jesus’ challenge to the host of the party.  To have a humble heart, the host must open his banquet to the least expected, to people he does not prefer to invite, to a crowd that is alien to his taste and sensibilities.

Real humility is not only in self-abasement; it is also in opening one’s heart to the company of people who need the most love and the most care. It is in associating yourself with the people you can easily avoid or ignore.  It is in the act of breaking open the circle of familiarity limited to a few, to others who are just waiting to be invited.

Not all of us throw parties like a rich man. But all of us have our own preferred circle of friends, and consequently, there are people we do not wish to be identified with. If you are rich, you don’t enjoy the company of the poor. If you are intelligent, you don’t want to mingle with the ignorant. If you are famous, why will you desire to live among the ordinary folks?

Jesus said however, that there is a reward to the truly humble, to the one who allows other people into his company, into his home, into his heart. There is reward in heaven for those with open hearts. And on earth they shall reap the gratitude of those they have welcomed and embraced.