Be ambitious for the high table


#1

If Heaven is the ‘great banquet’ it is said to be, there must surely be ‘high tables’ and ‘low tables’ there. If one thing can be safely concluded from Jesus’ answer to the mother of the sons of Zebedee regarding seat reservations for them at his right hand and left, it is that positional hierarchy exists there also!

So what are these high tables and how are they allotted? The high table represents a greater proximity to the divine essence as compared to the low table. ‘High’ and ‘Low’ could also refer to the degree of clarity with which one beholds the Beatific Vision. The one with the greatest proximity to the Triune God is obviously the Son of Man (Jesus in his human nature), who is seated at the right hand of the Father. He occupies the number one spot, not by virtue of designation, but by merit of having endured more testing than anybody else. At number two would come Mary the Mother of God, and after her would come the apostles, followed by the martyrs. Toward bottom would come the aborted fetuses and the children who died in infancy (since their faith wasn’t really ‘tested’).

Even if we might not be ambitious on the worldly scale, it is definitely worth trying to make it to the high table of the heavenly banquet. As baptized persons our entry into heaven is more or less a ‘done deal’ subject to purgatory provisions. The only differentiator as far as seating protocol is concerned would be the level of testing that each of us has undergone in this life. Jesus, responding to the mother of James and John, asked them whether they were ready to drink of his “cup”? By “cup” he meant intense suffering or testing. From this we can conclude that there is a direct co-relation between the quantum of testing and the position at the banqueting table, and therefore if we are half clever, we should voluntarily ask God for more testing. We can do so with confidence since we know that God wants us to succeed and therefore He shall not test us beyond our capacity, and even if He does so, he shall correspondingly build up our capacities.

In earthly corporations, bosses value employees who proactively come forward and ask for more responsibilities. It is mainly such people who get successive promotions. In the parable of the talents, the servant who was entrusted with ten talents was probably a go-getter and risk-taker, whereas the servant who was entrusted with the single talent would probably have been a shirker or someone who was happy in his comfort zone. Naturally, the rewards were in proportion. The master would have probably patted himself on the back in retrospect, for his foresight in not wasting resources on the good-for-nothing fellow.

Ultimately we urgently need to introspect whether we are sacrificing our place at the high table of the Great Banquet by hesitating to pro-actively ask for more testing? Many of the saints might have been onto this secret because we read of them voluntarily asking God to send them more testing/suffering (a recent example being St. Alphonsa Muttathapadathu of Kerala). To conclude, if invoking testing/suffering from God is the right stepping stone to a place at the high table, shouldn’t we be doing so proactively, rather than letting things happen at their own pace and wasting precious time?


#2

1 Corinthians 2:9 Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

We can wait till we get there to see how it’s done. In the meantime why worry ourselves about this? Love God and seek His will.


#3

Why must there be?


#4

Because Christ said so:

Matthew 20:20 Then the mother[a] of the sons of Zebedee approached him with her sons and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something. 21 He said to her, “What do you wish?” She answered him, “Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.” 22 Jesus said in reply, “You do not know what you are asking.** Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?” They said to him, “We can.” 23 He replied, “My cup you will indeed drink, but to sit at my right and at my left , this] is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”

Luke 14:8 “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, 9 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. 10 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.

John 14:2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?**


#5

This is true:

Luke 17:10 So should it be with you. When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.’”

Luke 9:61 And another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.” 62 [To him] Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”

1 Corinthians 4:2 Now it is of course required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. 3 It does not concern me in the least that I be judged by you or any human tribunal; I do not even pass judgment on myself; 4 I am not conscious of anything against me, but I do not thereby stand acquitted; the one who judges me is the Lord.


#6

Now is the time to “worry” about this, because our position at the table gets fixed at the point of our death. The younger we are when this realisation hits home, the more we will be able to ‘do something’ about it. Our ability to take on more responsibility/withstand more testing goes down as we age.

BTW, one of the ‘perks’ of those seated at the high table is that they get patronage powers over earthly issues. We can be sure that the canonised saints are sitting at the high table because one of the conditions for their canonisation is that miracles should have been worked through their intercession.


#7

I’ll be lucky if I’m even allowed at the lowest of low tables. I’ll probably be in purgatory until the end of time and then begrudgingly let in - and this is the best I can hope for.

How am I supposed to get into those high tables if I can’t even have a personal relationship with God?

This is like a Silicon Valley billionaire telling us we can become rich, while he refuses to share equity and give out raises to his employees.


#8

No, He really didn’t…

Matthew 20:20 Then the mother[a] of the sons of Zebedee approached him with her sons and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something. 21 He said to her, “What do you wish?” She answered him, “Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.”

This is a request for her sons to have positions of authority over against the other apostles.

Luke 14:8 “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, 9 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. 10 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.

This isn’t a teaching on heaven; this is a parable, directed at those who were jockeying for position at an earthly banquet. In fact, Jesus follows it up with a teaching to the host (who wouldn’t be jockeying for position): the host himself shouldn’t take actions to put himself at advantage, but rather, should be humble and act in ways that don’t directly benefit himself.

This is a teaching about actions here on earth.

John 14:2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?

This doesn’t suggest “higher” or “lower” seats in heaven. (In fact, even if it did, it would be teaching us not to aspire to the “high tables”… :wink: )


#9

2 Cor 2:12 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth) such an one caught up to the third heaven.

Sounds like levels in heaven to me!


#10

The problem is that, in Paul’s day, that could mean a few things:

[list]*]Jewish mysticism posited seven heavens
*]Some scholars believe that the word ‘heaven’ was used in three ways: the sky, space (i.e., where the stars, moon, and sun are), and the heaven in which God is present
*]by use of the term ‘third’, Paul could have meant “the highest heaven” which, again, would imply “where God is”[/list]

With this one reference – and especially given that the Church doesn’t teach “levels of heaven” – it’s insufficient to conclude that there are various “levels” for the saints in heaven.


#11

This sounds overly pessimistic to me. If a baptised person dies in a ‘state of grace’, i.e. after a good confession and provided there is no unrepented mortal sin, there is no conceivable reason why the time in purgatory should be unreasonably prolonged.

Separately, Jesus talks of “last” and “first” in Mt. 20:16, which again points to a hierarchical setting.

Whatever may have been the perspective of the mother of the sons of Zebedee when she asked the right-left seats question in Mt. 20:21, whether earthly or heavenly, Jesus answered solely from the heavenly perspective, since he at least knew that his kingdom was not of this world (Jn 18:36).


#12

I have always considered there are different levels in heaven, but all in heaven are perfectly happy, as happy as they can be, but some have a greater capacity.

In junior school we were given the image of different sized filled bottles, all are filled but some have more.


#13

This assumes I’m not fooling myself into believing that I’m in an actual state of grace, only to find out the hard way…


#14

Sorry to say Bob, you’re sounding like the 1-talent dude of Lk 19:21 who likewise thought that his master was a “hard man” and nothing he did would be good enough for Him!

NF, hat’s off to your junior catechism school for this! Its a nice analogy. Since in heaven there is no scope for jealousy/envy, each will not know the size of the other person’s bottle. So if I should bump into St. Peter in the corridors of heaven, I would not know that my bottle is teeny-weeny in size compared to his! Its like in earthly corporations, where salary is supposed to be kept confidential so as to prevent heartburn among the employees.


#15

The key word I would like to elaborate is ambition - “ambition denotes inordinate desire of honor” (STh II-II, q. 131, a. 1) “ambition denotes an excess of magnanimity” (STh II-II q. 131, a.2)

There is an order to the journey to the beatific vision. Primarily, the principle is obedience with the true faith. The regard for this principle takes place from sanctification - the conversion of heart.

afthomercy you are correct in your praxis, in that “man is a beggar before God” (CCC 2559). And the result of the soul’s cooperation with divine testing is always humility. I would advise in a friendly way to ask for advice on how to avoid possible future discouragement. It would be a pity if your current zeal is undercut when God does not provide the ego with your intended perceived results.

The undercut, or pruning that is brought out in some way - is often done in contradiction to the hidden desires that of which is in conflict with the order to heaven, the will of God. In all of us, there is a law of sin that transgresses the order of right reason. (cf. Rom 7:14-25)


#16

Noting we do is good enough for him, otherwise we’d be Pelagians.

My statement was an indictment of me being a bad man, because I am unable to tell if I’m on the right track or not. I’m that imperfect. .


#17

Heeheehee I’ll be the person they let just inside the pearly side gates to sweep up if I ever make it in, and I’ll be dining out of a holy take out carton. :smiley: I’ve met so many people this week who are clearly “the better man/woman” I have to kick myself in reminder that Jesus thought I, too, was worth dying for.


#18

There you go again Bob, plumbing the depths of pessimism. Come on Sir, display some Christian hope! After all, didn’t the master commend the 10-talenter in Mt. 25:23 / Lk. 19:17 with the words: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

In using the A-word, I was freely borrowing a phrase from 1 Cor 14:1 (Weymouth NT): Be eager in your pursuit of this Love, and be earnestly ambitious for spiritual gifts, but let it be chiefly so in order that you may prophesy…
But yes, your comments are taken in good spirit. Tx.


#19

Without meaning any disrespect, I would you should seek to be committed to an insane asylum as quickly as possible. :eek:

Let me see. You’re Catholic, so, you worship God, right? That takes care of the first three commandments.

I assume you go to Mass regularly? Takes care of the fourth.

This is a tricky one. Seriously. Do you love your father and mother? For some reason, there are many moms and dads, especially dads, who have really messed up their relationships wit their children.

Have you killed any one today? No. I’m assuming you haven’t, you can correct me in your response. Probably not your entire life, unless you’ve been a soldier or policeman or something. And then you’d have to search your conscience to see if you did it in the line of duty or not. So, I’ll go with “no” as your answer.

Ok. You’re keeping the commandment not to kill.

Anyway, you get the drift. That’s how you know if you’re on the right track. The only problem I detect, might be your dismal attitude about God. I mean, how petty do you think God is, for you to say, “Noting we do is good enough for him…”.

God is love. Everything we do in faith and love, is good enough for Him.

otherwise we’d be Pelagians.

You don’t understand the meaning of Pelagianism. And let me anticipate the retort, neither do you understand “semi” Pelagianism. At it’s bare minimum, Pelagianism means, “works alone”. A Pelagian believes that he was created and then, without any help from God, proceeded to convert and save himself by his good works.

In contrast:

The Catholic Church Teaches that God gives us grace to convert and then grace to do good works and persevere in faith.

I hope you see the difference.

Semi Peligianism says that a man converts without help from God but then receives grace to do good works.

Again,

The Catholic Church Teaches that God gives us grace to convert and then grace to do good works and persevere in faith.

I hope that helps.


#20

If I make it there, you’ll outrank me, as I’ll be the person who washes the brooms you’re using and dining out of the bread crumbs from the holy table.

Nope. Just plumbing the depths of the lives of the saints. Read St. Faustina’s diary.

Come on Sir, display some Christian hope! After all, didn’t the master commend the 10-talenter in Mt. 25:23 / Lk. 19:17 with the words: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

He had 10 talents. I don’t think I have one, which means I did have one and I lost it, and will face an angry judge.

In using the A-word, I was freely borrowing a phrase from 1 Cor 14:1 (Weymouth NT): Be eager in your pursuit of this Love, and be earnestly ambitious for spiritual gifts, but let it be chiefly so in order that you may prophesy…
But yes, your comments are taken in good spirit. Tx.

Yup. I’d love to be up there with the saints, but how do I get past the gatekeeper? (i.e. life)


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