TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

Marriage Reveals the Relationship between God and Human Beings
Accepting Loss Disciplines Oneself for True Blessing

First Reading (Eccles 3: 19-21, 20-21): We should be modest and gentle
Second Reading (Heb 12:18-19, 22-24):The New Testament God is close to humankind
Gospel (Lk 14: 1, 7-14): We should be humble and hospitable for others
Chinese classics:
-:Yin Hou excels others not only by his talents but also in how he handles his talents.; (1)
-:Pride leads to loss, modesty brings gain.; (2)
-:He who is proud loses opportunities. He who is modest accumulates gain. You benefit just because I lose. In this way, it harmonizes my relationship with you externally. And internally, I have peace of heart. When there are peace and harmony, blessing is there. : (3).

:When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host... When you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, .Friend, move up higher; then you will be honoured in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exaltedKWhen you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous. (Lk 14: 7-14 summarized)

When Jesus told the parables of the Kingdom of Heaven he often used the example of a wedding banquet. These increase our understanding of God's relationship with us. It is not just a relationship between the Supreme Being and human persons, a superior with an inferior, a relationship of worship only, but an intimate relationship, one of love, a covenant of love. This relationship, this covenant, was shown and revealed gradually throughout the Bible.

The Bible cannot be interpreted out of context. To understand it, we must try to understand the whole Bible, especially through the light shed by the Gospels.

Let us give an example. If we look at God only from certain passages in the Old Testament we may think that God is the 'God of Abraham,' the God of one group of people only, or a 'tribal god' (the God of the Israelites') or a 'god of war' (leading the Israelites into battle). Actually God is not at all like that! From the time of the prophets on, the Israelites gradually began to realize that God was not only 'their' God, but was everyone's God, 'God of All Peoples.'

By the time of Jesus, God went a step further. God was not only far beyond any other, a God of great majesty, but was our :Father; who loved and cared for us with the heart of a father.

When Jesus used the parable of a wedding feast or of marriage itself to describe the Kingdom of God and God's relationship with us human beings, he wanted to deepen our understanding further by telling us that God is our :Lover;. God is a God who wants to be with us, with kindness, sympathy, grace and salvation. God has especially chosen us so that we can be united with Him. This is the Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus emphasized so often.

In this kind of Heavenly Kingdom there is an atmosphere of love. People really should be treating each other with respect, humbly deferring to one another. But one time when Jesus was at dinner in the home of a leading Pharisee he noticed that some of the guests were competing with one another for the places of honor. So he warned them that if they continued to do this they might be quite embarrassed if a guest more important than they arrived and they were asked to move to another place to make room for the more honored guest. Later Jesus gave them an excellent admonition: :All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Humility is an important virtue for a Christian. The birth of Christ into the world was a .self-emptying・ process in which Christ is a model of humility. In .New Meanings in Old Sayings・ Huang Meng praised Yin Hou, affirming the importance of his rare characteristic of modesty. :Yin Hou excels others not only by his talents but also in how he handles his talents.; (1) In other words, Yin Hou was superior to others not only by his merits, the way in which he handled his merits was also much better than others did. He was a very humble person and treated people very politely. Even with all his merits he was modest and was a true gentleman.

There is an ancient saying, :Pride leads to loss, modesty brings gain. (2): In .To Accept Loss is a Blessing,・ Zheng Ban Qiao cleverly elaborated on this, saying, :He who is proud loses opportunities. He who is modest accumulates gains. You benefit just because I lose. In this way, it harmonizes my relationships with you externally. And internally, I have peace of heart. When there is peace and harmony, blessing is there.; (3)

This quotation means that when there is too much or too full, things start to diminish. When there is nothing, things begin to add up and become plentiful. If you have accepted loss, it indicates someone has gained. If someone has benefited, why should one feel bad? A humble person focuses on what benefits others and makes others happy. At the same time the person feels peace of heart. Is this not .killing two birds with one stone・ and is it not a blessing?

In fact, when Jesus went on to suggest we should even invite :the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind,; he again had in mind the Kingdom of Heaven. There everyone is considerate of one another, thinking of others rather than seeking reward for oneself. Not only is everyone humble and considerate, always deferring to others, but it is a community filled with love and care for one another.

If human beings' relationship with God is like that of lovers with each other, then among all of humankind there will be community and the highest possible degree of unity. There will be no marginallized people like the lame and the poor because all will live at the very center of the Kingdom of Heaven, submerged in the ocean of God's love.

(1)鎭EDH較HABョ較HC
(2) 此朷lB曽qC此矛lぇ穣A遷蓑佞ШァC
(3) l鵑vhq鶇次A~oH院ぇキAずoиみぇwFJキBwA砦YbOoI