Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time: Humility

Today’s readings call us to consider the topic of humility. Humility is a virtue we all struggle to obtain. Its opposite, pride, is the fundamental flaw of all human beings.

Sep 01, 2019

22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time
Readings: Sirach 3:19-21, 30-31;
Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24a;
Gospel: Luke 14:1, 7-14

Today’s readings call us to consider the topic of humility. Humility is a virtue we all struggle to obtain. Its opposite, pride, is the fundamental flaw of all human beings. Consider the beginning of Genesis and the story of the first sin. There is a far deeper element to the story of original sin than the mere decision of Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. This was the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. If they ate this fruit they would experience evil. But Adam and Eve decided that they were not going to be told what to do or not do by God. The serpent said to them, “Eat this and you will be like God.” He appealed to their pride. They didn’t eat the apple because they were hungry and there was nothing else to eat. They ate the apple because they decided that they did not need God. The original sin of mankind was disobedience occasioned by pride.

We have to make war on our own pride. When we think about it, all of our sins are rooted in our own pride.

There is that “nobody is going to tell me what to do” element of every sin, the expression of pride. “You gotta problem with that?”, the sinner says be he or she a bully, an adulterer or what have you. They are really not just saying that to their victims or to society; they are saying that to God.

Pride manifests itself when we are concerned about our status in this or that group, at work, in the neighbourhood, at school, etc. Sometimes we ask in exasperation, “Who does he think he’s talking to?” Well, who do we think that we are? We forget that we are nothing without God, and everything only because of God.

We need humility. We need people of humility to show us how to live in proper relationship to God. We have been given many great examples. St Teresa of Calcutta was certainly a humble little lady who was a giant before God. She knew what God had called her to do, and was not concerned what people said about her. St John Paul II was a kind man who did not think so highly about himself that he would not sit on a stage during the World Youth Day entertainments and laugh with the young people.

We have particularly been blessed with the experience of our present Holy Father, Pope Francis, who is a man of humility. He knows his position before God is Vicar of Christ and, as we have learned, he protects his office, refusing to let others run the Church around him. Many bishops and cardinals are still licking their wounds after attempting to circumvent Pope Francis. He protects the papacy, but when it comes to himself as the Pope, he is extremely humble.

Priests and bishops who are sent to work in Rome used to see the Holy Father rather infrequently, only if they were needed to present something directly to the Pope regarding their ministry. The Holy Father’s rooms were in the Apostolic Palace. His meals were taken there. Well, that was all before Pope Francis. Pope Francis doesn’t live in the Apostolic Palace. He lives with the priests working in the Vatican. His apartment is one of the rooms available for any of the Vatican clergy. He takes his meals as one of the many who line up for the buffet. Can you imagine being in line for lunch, turning around, and there is the Pope in line behind you? That is exactly what is happening most days in the Vatican. When it comes to himself, Pope Francis is a humble man before the Lord. After he became pope, a reporter asked him, “Who is Jorge Bergoglio?” The Pope responded, “A sinner.” He knows that who we are before the Lord is due to the Lord’s grace and mercy, not due to our own innate qualities.

Who are you?, Who am I before the Lord? We are sinners in continual need of God’s mercy. The words that we speak immediately before communion are not just a prayer formula, but an expression of who we are: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” We are not looking for the best seats in the banquet hall of the Lord. We are humbled that we have been invited to the meal.

We end the Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass with the proclamation of where all glory and honour belong: through Him and with Him and in Him, O God almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honour is yours forever and ever.

The prophet Micah wrote, in Micah 6:8, “You have been told, O Man, what the Lord requires of you: only to do right, to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.” We don’t need to be full of ourselves. We can fight off the pride that ruins our lives. We can be humble.

Perhaps sometimes, you feel, perhaps sometimes, I feel, “I am not good enough--not good enough as a husband or wife, as a parent, as a priest, whatever,” When we feel this way, we are right, and we are wrong.

By ourselves, we are never good enough. That would be pride. But we are not by ourselves. We have the Lord. Or, better, He has us. And it is the Lord who makes us good enough, good enough to do the work of His Kingdom.

We pray today for the courage to embrace our true dignity and walk humbly with our God. — By Msgr Joseph A Pellegrino

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