Exalted Vanity

Want to rate this?

Saturday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time


Luke 14:1, 7-11

On a Sabbath Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully. He told a parable to those who had been invited, noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor. A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him, and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place. Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, ‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’ Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”


Opening Prayer: As I come into your presence today, I take comfort from St. Paul’s words in today’s second reading: For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. I know you have called me; I know you have given me so many gifts, and I know you will always be faithful to me. I come before you to renew my faith in you, to listen to what you have to say to me, and simply to enjoy being with the One who I know loves me.


Encountering Christ:


  1. The Vanity Trap: How much time we waste by worrying what other people are thinking of us! Just like the guests at this dinner, we jostle and vie for approval, recognition, and popularity. Our Lord’s parable points out how such expenditure of energy is pointless—we simply cannot control the whims of others, the ebbs and flows of societal fashions. Something completely outside of our control could easily push us to the lowest seat at the table at any time. Jesus wants us to release these vain strivings. He wants us to direct our energy and our hopes to more worthy goals. Instead of trying to exalt ourselves, he encourages us to humble ourselves. This doesn’t mean thinking less of ourselves—we are still created in God’s image and redeemed by Christ, so our true value and worth are not in question. Rather, he wants us to think about ourselves less, to occupy our minds with other things, to be freed from vain self-absorption, which is a dead end when it comes to spiritual growth and interior peace. This parable echoes one of Christ’s unforgettable exhortations in his Sermon on the Mount: But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these other things will be given you besides (Matthew 6:33).
  2. The Good Roots of Bad Vanity: The sin of vanity, as all sin, involves the distortion of something good—in this case, something actually necessary. The human person needs to be loved, approved, valued, esteemed. We cannot flourish unless we know that we are valued just because of who we are. This need is built into our nature. The yearning to be valued and appreciated is a healthy yearning. After all, we are created in the image of God, who is a Trinity of Persons in an eternal exchange of love. To try and stifle the yearning for love would be to stifle our very humanity. The problem isn’t in the desire for appreciation, but in misplacing that desire. Our fallen nature is so insecure that we have a tendency to turn the desire to be valued into an idol, as if being valued is the true goal of life instead of a necessary ingredient. When we do that, we can easily end up committing all kinds of evil acts just in order to remain in a particular person’s good graces. We will lie and gossip to get on someone’s good side. We will overextend ourselves to win someone’s approval. We may even subject our bodies to immoral activities just so we won’t be rejected by someone we are trying to impress or hold on to. In a desperate bid to be seen and valued by someone we care about, we can break every commandment. This is disordered. Jesus wants us to know that we never have to compromise our true identity as God’s children; we never have to disdain our innate human dignity to make ourselves loved, valued, and appreciated. This is because we already are loved, valued, and appreciated, infinitely, by God. Our faith tells us this. And so, the true path to interior peace and spiritual strength isn’t trying to win the approval of peers or bosses at any cost, but taking the time to exercise and nourish our faith, so that we see ourselves more and more constantly through God’s eyes.
  3. An Odd Place for God: St. Luke presents us with an odd scene in today’s Gospel. A leading Pharisee is hosting a large social gathering—think of a catered cocktail and dinner party in a wealthy socialite’s mansion. And Jesus is there. And he engages in a series of interactions and conversations during this party in which he takes advantage of the circumstances to preach the Gospel, to reveal the eternal truths. Most of us wouldn’t consider this setting a typical place for God to reveal himself. And yet, there it is, right in St. Luke’s Gospel. Is it possible that Jesus is revealing himself to me, teaching me the lessons I most need to learn, in the middle of the normal scenes of my everyday life? Of course it is! That’s how God works. As the Catechism reminds us (27): God never ceases to draw man to himself. God is reaching out to me always and everywhere: at home, at work, at dinner parties, on the golf course. The question is, am I looking for him there, or am I so preoccupied with my own equivalent of choosing the places of honor at the table that I simply can’t hear his voice?


Conversing with Christ: What do I really want, Lord? I say that I want you to have the first place in my heart, that I want to know and embrace your will, that I want your friendship to be the fulcrum of everything I am and everything I do. Yet, I don’t always think, speak, and act as if that were truly the case. Why not? I suspect other desires or fears are at work deep within me, desires and fears I may not even be fully aware of. Please reveal them to me, Lord, as painful as it may be. I don’t want anything to interfere with my following of you.


Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will make a calm and honest examination of conscience and go to confession, so as to give room for your grace to cleanse and renew me.

For Further Reflection: Read this post to help you reflect on the desires that may be at the roots of your sins.


Written by Fr. John Bartunek, LC.

Average Rating

What did you think?

Share your review! Just log in or create your free account.

Leave a Reply

Want more?

Sign up for the weekly email and access to member-only content

Skip to content