22nd Sunday of OT Year C:
As many of you know, I come from a big family. To get laughs I will often introduce myself as the oldest of 11 children, and I’m also the most intelligent, most athletic, the handsomest, most amazing of them all, and of course the most humble of all. Like I said this usually gets a few laughs, especially when I claim to be the most humble, for bragging about one’s humility is a sure sign that he/she lacks the virtue.
Humility is an extremely important virtue. In fact, Mother Theresa called humility the mother of all virtues. She says, “it is in being humble that our love becomes real, devoted and ardent. If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are.” So, I think we would all agree that humility is extremely important. But, how do we grow in this virtue? Humility is one of those strange traits that won’t develop if we are concentrating on it. For example, if you walked around all day trying to be humble, there is a good chance you will become proud of your humility, and the whole thing will be ruined.
In today’s parable, Jesus gives us some examples of things to do that will help us to grow in humility. We are to take the lower place and we are to help others without calculating the return. These we should absolutely do. But, how often are we invited to a wedding banquet where seats are given based on one’s social status? Not that often. We need to discern how to apply these principles in our daily life. So, I think that rather than having specific humble actions in mind, we will grow in humility when we contemplate the example of humble people.
I’ve already mentioned Mother Theresa, who quietly worked for the poor and abandoned in Calcutta. Think of St. Therese of Liseaux, a great saint who lived a quiet life of prayer. Or, St. John Vianney, who gave a tireless witness of pastoral charity. But, most of all, we should reflect on the person of Jesus.
Who are we to be proud anyway? I mean we are weak, fallen sinners. Yet, we often aspire to those high places of honor and prestige. How different it is with Christ! He is the eternal son of God, and he was not born into a palace, but in a tiny manger. He is the eternal word through whom the entire cosmos was created, but he lived in the house of a lowly carpenter. He is the king of kings, yet he was crucified between two common criminals. In fact, every moment of Christ’s life on earth is an amazing example of humility. The son of God emptied himself and took on the form of a slave, St Paul says. And he does so in order that he might lift us up. It is precisely the humility of Christ that has the power to overcome the foolishness of human pride. He had to sink low, but it was in order to pick us up.
It is always a good idea for us to contemplate the person of Jesus, to dwell on his words, and reflect on his actions. But, I think it is especially important because it helps us to grow in humility. How can I be proud, when Christ was born in a manger? How can I be proud, when Christ was crucified for me? How can I fail to love and serve others, when Christ did all this for me and for all of us?
In reality, I certainly don’t claim to be the most humble person. I need to grow in humility, we all need to grow in humility. What a blessing, then, it is for us to come here to the Mass. In the Eucharist, Jesus comes to us in perhaps his most humble form. Hopefully, by receiving this Holy Eucharist, and pondering the humility of Christ, we will grow in humility and will find ways in our daily lives to take the lower place and to help others without expecting return.