I STILL think fondly about my enjoyable trip to Guatemala and El Salvador. I think not so much about the places that I visited but the warm encounters that I had with the people there. I remember the times that I sat at dinner table with some families and friends and engaged in joyous conversations with them.
On two of my dinner invitations, the hospitality and kindness of my hosts impressed me. Not only did they prepare the best local food, but they also presented me with gifts that signify something about their country.
I felt their love and appreciation during these moments. They were genuine human encounters that were devoid of any return of favors or expectations. They were humble and simple gestures of hospitality, thoughtfulness, and kindness.
Many times, these are the human encounters that we enjoy because they are authentic and free of pretense and haughtiness. We don’t enjoy being around people that boast about their titles and accomplishments or impress us with their attires and wealth. We hate to be around people that display arrogance and sense of superiority. We like to be with people who are genuinely friendly and humble.
This Sunday’s Scripture Readings speak about humility especially in human encounters. The Book of Sirach teaches us “to conduct our affairs with humility” because it is by humbling ourselves that we become greater and find favor with God. The Gospel speaks about the Parable of the Invited Guests in which Jesus teaches us to take the lowest place when invited to a dinner party and not to seek any special treatment and recognition. Then he tells us to invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame instead of wealthy neighbors and friends because they are the ones who cannot not return our hospitality and generosity because of their poverty.
Humility in human encounters means being free of prejudice and expectations. It is seeing all people as children of God and appreciating their uniqueness and gifts. It is being friends with everyone and not being selective with our associations. It is true concern for others and acceptance of their individuality.
The Eucharist is a place for these genuine and humble human encounters. In the Eucharist we let go of our pride, arrogance, hatred, and biases. We become one family, united in faith and love for Jesus.
As Catholic Christians, may we continue to promote these humble human encounters in a world that is sometimes filled with arrogance and hatred. May we be examples of acceptance and hospitality. May we become Christ to others by treating them with utmost respect for their human dignity.
Let’s start right here in our backyards, homes and community!
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Reverend Rodel G. Balagtas attended St. John Seminary in Camarillo, California and earned his Doctor of Ministry in Preaching from Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, Missouri. For twenty years, he has been in the parish ministry of large multi-cultural communities. Since 2002, he has been the pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Los Angeles. Please email Fr. Rodel at [email protected].