SUNDAY REFLECTION 28-08-2016: “THE REWARD FOR HUMILITY”

SUNDAY REFLECTION 28-08-2016: “THE REWARD FOR HUMILITY”
Humility
is one of the most familiar and widely esteemed of human virtues. To be sure,
though, it has not been equally valued in all times and places. In the
Christian parlance, humility is the most basic and mother of all of the
virtues. In order to believe in God, we need to be humble. Humility allows us
to believe in someone greater than ourselves. In order to love, we need to be
humble. Humility allows us to forget ourselves and love our neighbour. Culled
from the Latin root “humilitas,
a noun related to the adjective “humilis, which may be
translated as “humble”, but also as “grounded”, or
“from the earth”, since it derives in turns from “humus, meaning earth.
A practical example of this etymological derivation is seen in the light of a
soil that contains humus. Humus is the dark organic matter that forms in the
soil when plant or animal matter decays. Humus contains many useful nutrients
for healthy soil, nitrogen being the most important of all. A soil which
contains humus is known to support lives of plants and other organisms in a
more increasing amount. Humus enables the soil to submit itself to the effect
of water and other external conditions and above all, the sunlight which
enables photosynthesis in green plants necessary for growth. Ipso facto, the
soil which contains high amount of humus is considered the best type of soil;
and this we know as “loamy soil”. In consonance to this, the virtue of humility
(springing from humus) has a richer significance in the life of man. In the
light of this, humility can be understood as the submission to the influence of
the Holy Spirit which enables spiritual growth, and also recognizing God’s
gifts and human dignity in others and not esteeming oneself above others. Put
differently, it is a quality by which a person considering his own defects has
a humble opinion of himself and willingly submits himself to God and to others
for God’s sake.
Dear friends, today’s readings bring to our doorsteps; “the virtue of humility and its reward”. The readings also warn us against all forms of pride and self-glorification.  They present humility not only as a virtue but also as a means of availing ourselves to the poor, the needy, the disadvantaged and the marginalized people in our society.

In the First reading from the book of Sirach/Ecclesiasticus (3:17-18,20,28-29),
we hear the golden words of the sage. He says: “My child, conduct your affairs
with humility and you will be
loved more than a giver of gifts. Humble
yourself the more, the greater you are, and
you will find favor with God.” Sirach is considered part of the Wisdom
Literature; it was written by a Jewish scribe who lived in Jerusalem in the early third century BC.  His name was Jesus, son of Eleazar,
son of Sirach.  He is often
called “Ben Sira.” Sirach was a sage who lived in Jerusalem; he was
thoroughly imbued with love for the wisdom tradition, and also for the law,
priesthood, Temple, and divine worship. The book contains numerous well-crafted
maxims, grouped by affinity, and dealing with a variety of subjects such as the
individual, the family, and the community in their relations with one another
and with God. The part which treats humility is what we read today at mass.
Hence, the greater we become, the humbler we should be in order to find favour
and be at peace with God.
Within
the same stream of humility, the second reading, taken from the letter to the Hebrews (Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24),
gives another reason for us to be humble. The Letter to the Hebrews was written
in the last quarter of first century AD. At that time, the Jewish Christians were
living under hostility and dominations of the Roman Empire and the Judaism. In
this vein, the author makes a comparative analysis of the picture of God in the
Old Testament with that found in the New Testament. Instead of the frightening
manifestation of God’s glory in the Old Covenant (which he describes as “a
blazing fire and gloomy darkness and storm and a trumpet blast and a voice speaking words such that those who heard
begged that no message be further addressed to
them), the New Testament offers the picture of a loving and humble God as
revealed by Christ. He says: “you have approached Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly
Jerusalem, and countless angels in festal
gathering, and the assembly of the
firstborn enrolled in heaven, and God the
judge of all, and the spirits of the just
made perfect, and Jesus, the mediator of
a new covenant, and the sprinkled blood
that speaks more eloquently than that of Abel. Hence, the author seems to imply
that we need to follow Christ’s example of humility in our relationship with the
less fortunate members of the society. Going back to the verse: “Jesus,
the mediator of a new covenant, and the sprinkled blood that speaks more
eloquently than that of Abel.”
 Jesus
was lowly, particularly in his suffering and death for our salvation (Heb
2:5-18).  If we are humble, like Jesus and with him, we shall be exalted
with Him at the resurrection of the righteous.
The Gospel Reading (Luke 14:1, 7-14) is not saying
anything different; rather it drives home a more practical dimension of
humility. Jesus gives his host a lesson in humility. He explains the practical
benefits of humility, connecting it with the common wisdom about dining etiquette.
Jesus advises the guests to go to the lowest place instead of seeking places of
honour, so that the host may give them the place they really deserve. Jesus’
words concerning the seating of guests at a wedding banquet should prompt us to
honour those whom others ignore, because if we are generous and just in our
dealings with those in need, we can be confident of the Lord’s blessings.
Dear friends in Christ, just as Jesus challenges
his fellow guests, so he challenges us. He warns us that those who will be
saved will not be people like the Pharisees. The deeper message of this parable
is that if we exalt ourselves, we are going to face embarrassment before the
judgment seat of God, the Host who has invited us to the banquet of life. W
e
need to practice humility in personal and social life. Humility is grounded in a
psychological awareness that everything I have is a gift from God, and,
therefore, I have no reason to boast. I must not use these God-given gifts to
elevate myself above others. It is the
quality by which a person considering his
own defects has a humble opinion of himself and willingly submits himself to
God and to others for God’s sake.
We must
understand that humility is not timidity or acting foolishly; and no man can
boast of attaining full humility, otherwise it would be understood as being
proud of his humility. Humility is a gift. We need to ask God to make us
humble. But, asking for humility is not enough; we need to do acts of humility.
In order to love, we need to be humble. Above all, let us remember that
exhibiting this virtue of humility goes with a reward, just as pride equally
has its reward… As stated earlier, the deeper message of this parable is that
if we exalt ourselves, we are going to face embarrassment before the judgment
seat of God, the Host who has invited us to the banquet of life. And Christ
added: “
For every one who
exalts himself will be humbled, but
the one who humbles himself will be exalted.
In
conclusion, I leave you with the words of St. Augustine: “Humility is the
foundation of all the other virtues hence, in the soul in which this virtue
does not exist; there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance.”
Let us ask the good Lord to instill in us this great virtue of humility by
earnestly praying for it, and at the end, we shall, like the Psalmist of today (Ps. 68:4-56-7;10-11), rejoice and exult before God;
Sing to God, chant praises to his name and
exclaim “God, in your goodness, you have made a home
for the poor”.

Shalom!

Happy 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

CLICK HERE TO ALSO READ: SUNDAY REFLECTION (21-08-16) THEME: “THE LORD GATHERS AND RESTORES HIS PEOPLE”

Leave a Reply