When I read today’s readings, I was reminded of a story that I once heard or read some time ago about a rude passenger and a flight attendant.
As the story goes it was the mid 1960’s and the flight was going from New York to Memphis. The flight was very full and the flight attendant was trying to get everyone seated so that the plane could take off. As she brought one of the last passengers, a wealthy southern woman to her seat the southern woman looked at the flight attendant and said, quite loudly that she could not sit in that seat… she told the flight attendant to do something and find her another seat as she had paid good money for the trip.
Rather odd behavior in most people’s view, but for this wealthy southern woman there was nothing odd about her behavior. You see the man in the seat next to the one that the southern woman had been assigned was the type of person whom someone in the 60’s might have called a hippy, and in the woman’s view she simply could not sit next to a hippy.
As the story goes on we learn that the flight attendant did in fact do something, she went to the captain and explained the situation. The captain reviewed the manifest, and seeing that there was only one seat open on the plane, a seat in first class, instructed the flight attendant to move the passenger to first class.
Upon returning to the row of seats where the angry woman and the hippy were supposed to be sitting together the flight attendant explained that there was only one open seat on the plane and that that seat was in first class, and the captain had given the flight attendant instructions to use that first class seat to alleviate the problem. The flight attendant then invited the gentleman, who had done nothing except sit in the seat that had been assigned to him, to come with her to the first class cabin where he could relax and enjoy the flight.
When I read today’s Gospel this story came to mind, not because it was about the social tensions that our nation experienced in the 1960’s, but because the same story could be told about any two cultures who experienced differences of opinion about their place in each other’s world throughout history.
Now, I’m not sure how true that story is, but I think it gives us a pretty good example of what Jesus is telling us in today’s parable.
That is that most of the time when we are confronted with a situation…especially a situation where we encounter people for the first time we are called to be respectful and not judge. And I don’t mean we shouldn’t simply withhold our judgement of the other person…we need to be careful not to judge ourselves in relation to the person or people we have just met.
Jesus tells us not to take a place of honor because a more distinguished guest may have been invited and we will be asked to give up our seat at the table. A pretty clear instruction, but one that I think we need to be sure and expand upon in our daily lives. None of us has the ability to look at a person or situation that we have never encountered and know everything there is to know about that person or situation. Jesus tells us in this parable to approach these situation as if we are the least honorable person in the room, or at the table. To act as if our presence at the table is something that we don’t deserve and certainly something that we haven’t earned. Sit at the lowest place and allow the master of the feast to invite us to a place of higher honor because when we place ourselves in that seat of high honor, or view ourselves as more deserving than someone else we may be surprised to learn the truth, to learn that we are not as important as we are in our own mind.
Jesus taught us to love, honor, and respect one another, not to judge. Remember as we judge others, we too will be judged.
Do you want to be judged by God the way you judge others? I know I don’t, and as much as I try to remember that I’m not here to judge others it is hard.
Pray for God’s help to live as Jesus taught.