22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (C) 1st September 2019

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (C) 1st September 2019


When Pope Francis appeared on the papal balcony,
signs and symbols abounded. He pushed aside the platform that would have raised him above
others. He stood simply, without his arms raised in a victorious salute. There was no
sense of “I won” or “look at me”. There was also an obvious lack of excessive
papal finery — just the plain, white cassock. He wore the ornate papal stole for the blessing,
but took it off immediately after with a reverential kiss. The official photos of that first appearance
will show a simple man, simply dressed, exuding humility in gesture and style. The magic moment, of course, was when he asked
for the blessing of the people before giving his own, papal blessing. I watched in awe.
Was this really happening? Did he have this planned? What a brilliant gesture! Apparently,
it is second nature to him. In this simple action, our new pope acknowledged that all
God’s people are called to raise their hands and hearts to the heavens to ask God to shower
blessings and graces on each other. And here I was saying to myself: “Oh no,
this man has set the bar too high. Lord give me the grace to be 1/10th of what this man
has just demonstrated.” It hurts to see priests, beginning with myself,
walking with pride, almost with our nose in the air, trumpeting on every social media
platform all our achievements, conveniently overlooking what we read in Matthew 6:2-4
“So when you give to the needy, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do
in the synagogues and on the streets, to be praised by men. Truly I tell you, they already
have their full reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know
what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father,
who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.…” Humility must begin with me. The word “humility” comes from the Latin
word 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
(earth). Incidentally, the word ‘human’ has also some connection with the word. Human
means “from the earth.” Therefore, humans are supposed to be always close to the ground
for that’s what we are. Genesis 3:19 “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food
until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to
dust you will return.” The definition reminds me of the Chinese proverb:
“The taller the bamboo grows, the lower it bends.” The closer it is therefore to
the ground. Being humble is keeping both feet on the ground. The first reading today is from the Book of
Sirach. The teaching is that humility will make a person loved, even more than giving
gifts to others. Humility always places us below others so that we can serve them without
resentment and with true love and appreciation. The higher position that we have in the world,
the deeper is our need for humility. Such humility will be shown in having an attentive
ear. Today, we would say that we need to listen to the other person. Humility is also known
in the person who listens attentively to wisdom stories, to proverbs and to real life situations
that help us understand others and respect them. The second reading reminds us that our destination
is Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, and the city of the living God. In this city,
only the humble like that of Angels and Saints can dwell there. Certainly, the proud cannot
because a proud heart cannot worship the Lord. Furthermore, in this city “everyone is a
first born and a true citizen.” Hence, as citizens of this city we must clothe ourselves
with humility just like Christ our Mediator. The Gospel today invites us to think about
how we think and act in relationship to others. When we are in the company of others, do we
put ourselves forward or do we stay in the background unless we are called forward? Perhaps
even more importantly, how do we think of ourselves in relationship to others? We can
stay in the background and still think of others as fools! Our model in humility is Jesus. He was a friend
of sinners, so much so that a rhyme was made up about him: “Behold a glutton and a drunkard,
a friend of tax-collectors and sinners.” (Luke 7:34) He washed the feet of the disciples at the
Last Supper as a sign that his followers are to serve. Jesus did not come to be served
but to serve. We, his followers, are called by him not to be served but to serve. “My son be gentle in carrying out your business,
and you will be better loved than a lavish giver.
The greater you are, the more you should behave humbly,
and then you will find favour with the Lord.” (Sirach 3:17-18) “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,
and the man who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11) In the words of Saint Mother Teresa of Kolkatta,
“Humility is the mother of all virtues; purity, charity and obedience. 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. If you are blamed you
will not be discouraged. If they call you a saint you will not put yourself on a pedestal.” Have a grace filled Humility Sunday.

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