Sunday, September 1, 2013

“You cannot exalt God and yourself at the same time.”

“The most powerful weapon to conquer the devil is humility. For, as he does not know at all how to employ it, neither does he know how to defend himself from it.” --Saint Vincent de Paul

Gospel Text: (LK 14:1, 7-14)
On a sabbath Jesus went to dine
at the home of one of the leading Pharisees,
and the people there were observing him carefully.

He told a parable to those who had been invited,
noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table.
“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,
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.
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.
For every one who exalts himself will be humbled,
but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Then he said to the host who invited him,
“When you hold a lunch or a dinner,
do not invite your friends or your brothers
or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors,
in case they may invite you back and you have repayment.
Rather, when you hold a banquet,
invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind;
blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.
For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

It’s not unusual to think that a humble person is someone with a low opinion of himself or herself. All too often, people equate humility with a sense of inadequacy or even worthlessness.

Humility has nothing to do with how lowly we think we are or how self-effacing we act. It has to do with who we know God and others to be. If we know how great God is, we won’t feel the need to put ourselves down just so that we can exalt him. God doesn’t need our help to look better than he is! In fact, valuing everyone and everything he has made—including ourselves—only exalts him all the more! 

This truth is a corner stone of of humility: Those who love the poor are an instruction manual for the rest of us. They make humility visible and draw us into its transformative embrace.

Pope St Leo the Great once wrote of Jesus: 'He took the nature of a servant without stain of sin, enlarging our humanity without diminishing his divinity. He emptied himself; though invisible he made himself visible, though Creator and Lord of all things he chose to be one of us mortal men. Yet this was the condescension of compassion, not the loss of omnipotence. So he, who in the nature of God had created man, became in the nature of a servant, man himself.'

True humility is rare in this age of narcissism and self idolatry. When we encounter it in a leader, it moves us deeply. That is partly because we are used to experiencing its opposite in some who hold worldly power. But it is also because authentic humility reveals the God who emptied Himself for you and me. 

Jesus freely took the lowest place. - God is humble. Are we?

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