The Lowest Place

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time | September 1, 2019

See today’s readings here. This homily focuses on the Gospel reading. The archive of all of Fr. Brian’s homilies can be found here: Salesian Sermons

So I must admit, since I started working at Sallies, I have taken a lot of plane rides with students.

And I have a secret to confess. I have an insider at Salesianum that tries to arrange the seats so that I am separated from the crew.

    Now, it doesn’t always work.

There was the trip in which the students were seated right behind me and stared aghast as I started crying watching a Fault in our Stars on the plane.

Or the time the students were directly across from me and I had to be scolded by the flight attendant because one of them almost ate the package of snacks that contain peanuts despite being deathly allergic and the package having a giant picture of peanuts on it.

But usually, I escape for a few hours.

And I must admit, there is a part of me that enjoys watching them shuffling past me to the back of the plane. Finally, peace and quiet.

Until the last flight I took, in which everything got reversed. I was separated from the students all right. Except it was me in the back of the plane.

    The very last row to be exact.

    With nothing but the bathroom behind me.

Hours of people shuffling in and out. Lovely smells cascading through the open door. Light shattering my sleep. And yes, the occasional person losing their balance and falling into my lap.

And suddenly I heard the Gospel in a whole new light.

    Because there is something radically humbling about finding yourself in the back of the        plane, the lowest place at table or the bottom of the heap.

I think if we are honest with ourselves, we know that someone has to be in that position. We just assume it will never be us. Or at least hope that is true.

And all too often, we don’t even give much thought to the people in the back. The people on the bottom.

        We may throw a sympathetic glance their way.

        Or whispers to our companions about their bad luck.

But would we be willing to join them?

Would we walk to the back of the plane and say, “No, please sir, I insist, take my seat?”

I know what I am supposed to say.

    Of course.  The last shall be first.

    But if I’m honest, I’m not sure that is where my heart is.

I know what I’m supposed to do.

    Open my home and my hearts to those on the bottom of the heap.

But if I’m honest, I want to surround myself with people I enjoy and connect with. People who share my passions and frankly can afford to do so. I want to see the Broadway show. And enjoy the nice meal. And vacation with family and friends across the seas.

Maybe that is why I find this Gospel so disconcerting.

For it is challenging us to see the world differently, to experience the world differently, to live differently.

    To head to the lowest place, realizing that God is present there.

    To sit at the bottom of the heap, realizing God is present there.

Letting God gradually expand our vision and our heart.  Allowing us to see that the stranger in the back or on the bottom is the face of Christ waiting to reveal himself to us.

It will not be easy.  In fact, it may seem impossible.

    But nothing is impossible for our God.

So let us go forth my friends. To take the lowest place. To seek out those who can never repay us. To be the least among the least.

For then. And only then. Shall we truly enjoy the greatness that awaits us in the kingdom.

May God be Praised.

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