Sunday, August 29, 2010

“I am who I am in the eyes of God alone” - Humility is truth!

Humility can not be learned in books, it must be felt - Mother Teresa

Gospel text (Lk 14:1.7-14): One Sabbath Jesus had gone to eat a meal in the house of a leading Pharisee, and He was carefully watched. Jesus then told a parable to the guests, for He had noticed how they tried to take the places of honor. And He said, «When you are invited to a wedding party, do not choose the best seat. It may happen that someone more important than you has been invited, and your host, who invited both of you, will come and say to you: ‘Please give this person your place’. What shame is yours when you take the lowest seat! Whenever you are invited, go rather to the lowest seat, so that your host may come and say to you: ‘Friend, you must come up higher’. And this will be a great honor for you in the presence of all the other guests. For whoever makes himself out to be great will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be raised».

Jesus also addressed the man who had invited him and said, «When you give a lunch or a dinner, don't invite your friends, or your brothers and relatives and wealthy neighbors. For surely they will also invite you in return and you will be repaid. When you give a feast, invite instead the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. Fortunate are you then, because they can't repay you; you will be repaid at the Resurrection of the upright».

Today, Jesus teaches us a masterly lesson: do not choose the best seat: «When you are invited to a wedding party, do not choose the best seat» (Lk 14:8). Jesus knows we like to look for the best places: in official acts, informal gatherings, at home, at the table. He knows our trend to overrate ourselves out of vanity, or worse still, out of a poorly hidden pride. So let us therefore be careful with honors, for «the heart remains chained where it finds the possibility of delight» (St. Leo the Great).

Haven't we ever been told that there were no colleagues with more merit or better personal values than us? It is not, therefore, a question of a sporadic feat, but of an assumed attitude of considering ourselves the smarter, the most important, the most deserving, the always rightful ones; an aspiration supposing a narrow vision of ourselves and of those around us. In fact, Jesus invites us to practice the perfect humility, consisting in not judging ourselves or others, and to be conscious of our individual insignificance, in relation to creation and of life in concert.

It is common in Wisdom literature to praise humility. In fact, humility is one of the most valued qualities in our day in a friend, a spouse, a leader. We admire that rare, special quality of humility some people have. We find "know-it-all" characters, people who seem to talk down to everyone, or any form of arrogance quite unattractive. We all see in our everyday experience that a lack of humility is a key component in the breakdown of many relationships and the tragic downfall of many entertainment, sports, business, professional and political leaders. Upon reflection, we realize that humility rarely just comes naturally. It is often born and nurtured in an environment of faith and respect for others, and, quite often, it has come from some suffering. The word "humility" has its root in the Latin word "humus," which means "soil" or "earth." From this root meaning, "humility" gets its connotations of lowly or close to the earth, modest, rooted in reality, comfortable just being oneself. Quite literally, a humble person, like soil, has gone through a process which has involved some dying and transformation - a loss of ego and self-centered energy - and has grown to become a marvelously nurturing, for-others type of person.

In the same line of thought, the Master invites us to place ourselves with humility beside those chosen by God: the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind, and to be at the same level with them to find ourselves amidst those God loves with special tenderness, and to overcome the repugnance and shame to share with them table and friendship.

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