For those who are unfamiliar with the U.S. tradition of Halloween, it is a night when children dress up in costume and go door to door saying “trick or treat” implying they will play a trick on you if you do not give them a treat. Adults keep their porch lights on and have bowls of candy ready to pass out while admiring costumes or pretending to be afraid of those in monster costumes.
When I saw that I was assigned to write a reflection for October 31, I could not help but think of Halloween and what that meant to me as a child. It was always one of my favorite holidays and it was not just because of the large booty of candy we always brought home from trick or treating. It was also because of the chance to go out after dark and, as we got older, stay out until 9pm. We did not have parents with us because I was the youngest and had older siblings to accompany me. It was before parents had to worry about someone snatching their children or putting something in the treats to harm them. So it was a special time of independence and trust by our parents that we would be polite and grateful for what was given to us. I had the special privilege to stay out later than some of my classmates who did not have older siblings to tag along after. It was also a time when I felt special because I went to Catholic school and we had the day off on November 1 because it was a holy day; the neighbors had to go to school at the public school so they usually had to go home earlier.
The childhood feelings of being special at Halloween seem to tie in somewhat with today’s reading of Luke’s gospel. As he usually did, Jesus used a parable to teach, this time about self-importance and humility. This is a gospel reading that was somewhat confusing to me in the past when I interpreted it to mean that all the wedding guest had to do to be special in the eyes of God and in the eyes of those around him was to sit at the end of the table and wait to be asked to move up closer to the head; then everyone would see how important he really was in the eyes of his host. This interpretation would lead to a false sense of self-importance similar to my childish feelings of being special because of my siblings and because of going to a Catholic school.
I think that the real lesson in this parable is that we are nothing without God. We accomplish nothing of real importance without him. It is in our acknowledgement of our total dependence on God for everything that we are and everything that we do, that we start to learn who God is. It is in this knowledge that we learn about His loving patience and forgiveness. It is in this knowledge that we learn to truly love all that he has created, even ourselves. We learn that we truly are special, each and everyone of us, not because of anything we have done, but because we are loved by God. That is the kind of humility that will lead us to sit at the far end of the table, not waiting for the invitation to move forward, but rather in love for all of the other guests who are reflections of God’s love.