A few days ago I received a new set of eyeglasses. They’re called “progressives,” which I think is meant to be a nicer and gentler term than “bifocals.” It could, of course, also have something to do with the fact that I am “progressing” in age, but I would rather not digress in that direction. The challenge for me now is to grow accustomed to looking through one part of the lens for general sight and the other for reading. I need to adapt to a whole new way of seeing.
This is perhaps a helpful way of explaining the parable of Jesus that we heard at Mass yesterday. He is inviting his listeners to an entirely new way of seeing life. When you are invited to a wedding banquet, he says, take not the place of honour but the lowest place. To human nature that tends toward self-aggrandizement, Jesus is offering a corrective lens, one that is truly “progressive,” that enables us to see clearly the truth of ourselves and to act accordingly.
That lens, in fact, is Jesus himself. He is truly and fully divine; and he is truly and fully human. When we encounter Jesus Christ, we see with perfect clarity the truth about God, and in that light we come to see clearly as well the truth concerning our human nature. Apart from Jesus our vision goes out of focus; with and through him we see clearly. In him what comes plainly into view is the truth that God, who has created us, loves us and draws near to his people in mercy and compassion, even to the point of giving over his Son for the sake of our salvation. When our vision of God is clarified, we see the truth about ourselves: that we are creatures, dependent entirely upon God, and that we are the objects of his infinite love and need never be afraid, need never strive to become anyone other than who we are.
This helps us understand what is being taught in the Scripture readings of yesterday concerning humility. In the Gospel parable Jesus invites us to act humbly. In the first reading from Sirach, we are encouraged to perform all of our tasks with humility. The humble are those who see clearly and who act in accordance with the truth that is seen. We see the truth through the lens that is Jesus. His grace enables us to appropriate it and thus to acknowledge God for who he is and to accept ourselves as he has made us.
Many of our young people are returning to school this week. My prayer is that they will be open to the many ways in which Jesus comes to meet them, and that, in their encounter with the Lord, they will receive properly focused vision. I pray that they will come to know the truth about themselves and every human being described so beautifully by Pope Benedict in his first homily as our Holy Father: “Everyone is the result of a thought of God; everyone is willed, loved and necessary.” This is the true vision of ourselves that follows from the revelation of God given in Jesus Christ. It enables us to live both humbly and freely as the children of God. Young people today are offered many different “lenses” through which to view reality. The Lord alone enables them to see without distortion. Let us do all that we must in order to lead them to Him.