Do not sit at the table
 in the place of honor

Readings: Sir. 3.17-29; Ps. 68; Heb. 12-24; Lk. 14. 1-14

This morningís gospel tells us, "When you are invited to a wedding banquet, do not sit at table in the place of honor. A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited, and the host Ö may say, "Give your place to this person." Since school is starting at this time, I want to speak to the children about a story of my own experience relevant to this gospel and school, and I wish to share some advice as the students begin the school year.

On the day before graduation from my high school, the whole class was practicing lining up and walking in procession, wearing caps and gowns, listening to the traditional "Pomp and Circumstance" music. It was an exciting time. The school principal read off to the student body our individual class rank, and then added, "Remember, the chairs on the stage are being saved for the best students." Being quick to anticipate events, I counted the # of chairs on the stage; there were exactly 26. The principal had just announced that my class rank was #26. I went home and proudly told my parents and siblings to look for me on the stage tomorrow night; I would be sitting with all the smart students. Well, my mother congratulated me, and my dad and my siblings looked shocked. Well, the next night at graduation, as we students were lining up in procession to go out into the auditorium, the principal reminded us, "Remember, the chairs on the stage are saved for the pastor Monsignor Lucitt and the top 25 students; I was #26! My parents and family spent much of the night looking for me on the auditorium stage, but I was sitting over in the corner with some of my best friends!!! It was a great lesson in humility. As the gospel exhorts us, "start off with the lowest place, and let someone say to you Ďgo higherí." "Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, but the one who humbles him/herself will be exalted."

Some Christian reflections regarding school:

  1. All good gifts come from God. Thank God for the gifts He has given you. Someone on your left or right also will have his/her own God-given gifts. Thank God for your unique soul and gifts. Use the gifts that God has given you. Some students receive Aís and others, Cís. Use your God-given potential. What a shame if an A-student doesnít study, and receives a C. What good news if a C-student receives a C.
  2. In schools and universities, where I have taught, intellectual gifts are over-valued, and exaggerated in importance. God has given people lots of different gifts: intelligence, personality, sports abilities, humor, kindness, helpfulness, patience, or desire to work hard. Intelligence is one gift among many other gifts. Iíve seen some very smart people do dumb things with their lives, and not do much good. Iíve seen many average people work hard, develop friendships, and become very successful.
  3. Education presents a chance of a lifetime. Each subject and each school year counts; donít waste your time, and dream that you can catch up later. Appreciate all knowledge, all learning. Iíve heard many people including myself complain, "when am I ever going to use algebra, French, or history again." Actually, every subject helps to develop your thinking process; and every subject contributes to your general knowledge. Whenever you study any subject, you should be learning about God because God is the source of all creation, every creature, all truth. Appreciate every subject.
  4. Keep learning about God for your whole life. Iíve met people with Ph.D.ís in rocket science, who havenít studied about God since they left grade school. Then these scholars say, "Why did the Church teach this silly answer to that very difficult question?" Well, when students are in grade school, the Church teaches at the grade school level for students, but the Church also teaches at very complex levels for those who can handle it. Keep learning about God for the rest of your life, and probably the best way is to make sure you are at Sunday Mass every week.
  5. Be humble in your knowledge. Knowledge is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Remember the adage, "The more you know, the more you know you donít know." When someone tells you, he/she knows everything that is a sure sign that they know almost nothing.

Students, as you begin school this year, follow todayís gospel message. Be humble, be open-minded, be a Truth-seeker. Listen in order to learn. Study hard; work hard. Read a great deal. Ask questions in order to understand Truth better. Lead a balanced life too: pray at home and church, play well and socialize well with family and friends; do your chores well. Thank God for all your gifts, and as todayís gospel says, "humbly use your gifts so that you will be exalted in heaven."

Read other homilies by Father O'Malley