30th Week OT (S)
Competing for the highest seat of honor at the table is evidence that you may be entertaining the sin of vainglory. Now, contemporary American dining etiquette doesn't recognize “seats of honor” at the table. So, we might think about this parable in terms of competing for unmerited attention in class, or showing off in an attempt to make our co-workers look bad. Closer to home, we might think about it in terms of the temptation to “out religious” our brothers and sisters at Church – kneeling longer, genuflecting more deeply, perfecting our Pious Face; the sort of religious theatrics that not only lead others to think of us as holy but also ward off any close scrutiny of our sinfulness. How many of us have taken communion in a state of mortal sin b/c we didn't want our friends to think we were. . .in a state of mortal sin!? We'd rather commit an additional mortal sin than be seen as anything but saintly. That's vainglory. The problem with vainglory is that it is a lie; that is, it's seeking glory for oneself based on a falsehood. The falsehood that lies at the bottom of vainglory is that my gifts, my talents, everything that makes me special is My Doing. My achievement. All of my successes – academic, athletic, romantic, economic, spiritual – are solely due to my intelligence, my diligence, and my physical prowess. This is a lie. And this lie, Aquinas tells us, leads to a host of other sins – “disobedience, boastfulness, hypocrisy, contention, obstinacy, discord, and love of novelties” (ST.II.II.132.5). Jesus teaches us to combat vainglory with humility. Seek the lowest seat. He's not saying pretend that you aren't gifted, or don't use your gifts publicly. He's saying don't take credit for creating your gifts. Don't seek praise for yourself b/c of your gifts. Instead, give glory to the One Who gave you your gifts. God alone assigns seats at the Wedding Feast. So, competing for the best seat is not only pointless, but it also causes chaos in your spiritual life. In effect, loving praise and seeking it out is a form of idolatry, a form of self-worship: I deserve this praise. Not God. I'm entitled to this attention. Not God. That is a surefire way of rejecting your invitation to the Wedding Feast, a guaranteed way of getting many opportunities to practice gnashing your teeth and rending your garments. Seek the glory of God. Give glory to God. And Him alone.