INTRODUCTION: THE FAST RACE. THE RAT RACE. We run and run fast to achieve our goals in life. If we do not run faster than our neighbors we run the risk of being left behind. There is an insurmountable amount of energy spent daily in this race of our lives that starts early in the day for most of us and ends late every night. And all to start again the following day, and the next and the next. Christians are at times stuck in this daily activity that never ceases. Life for such people is about jobs, mortgages, rents, bills, children, schools, liabilities, monies, advances, promotions, status, almost as if we want to get there ahead of ourselves.
Then we come to our daily or Sunday Eucharistic celebrations and we are confronted with the words of the Sacred Scriptures that allow us to view life in a different perspective. Jesus, in today's Gospel from Luke (14:1,7-14), utters some cryptic words that makes us stop to think: "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted" (v. 11). Those words are a great cure for humility which is a constant challenge in our daily lives of go and get it at all costs or arrive at the highest place even if you have to sacrifice
everything and everyone. I remember a quote from baseball's great coach Casey Stengel who said (I am paraphrasing): "... if my mother came to home base with the winning run, I would trip her up." That "winning at all costs" mentality permeates much of our society as people look for satisfaction in things that are purely material
HUMILITY by contrast is not a desirable quality or virtue. It is equated with smallness or cowardice which we think allows others to walk all over us. And nobody likes to be the doormat of everyone. Humility comes from the Latin word HUMUS which means EARTH or the clay beneath us. It is the quality that allows us to be real, to be solidly grounded and to think of ourselves with less importance, surrendering to the ONE who is the source of all the qualities and blessings that we have in life. The humbled person does not need to boast of anything because one acknowledges the power of God over one's life in everything we are or do. A humble person has a modest estimate of himself or herself and willingly submits to God and to others by virtue of divine grace.
HUMILITY is one of the foundation stones of a healthy spiritual life. HUMILITY is knowing the TRUTH about ourselves. ''La humildad is la verdad", St. Theresa of Avila writes (Humility is truth). It implies an attitude of surrendering one's life to ONE who is our life, our source, and our blessing. No wonder the "discovering of the fulfillment of God's will" is necessary for Christian perfection. This discovery is the daily task of the Christian. It is tantamount to what Jesus said and did "to fulfill the Will of the Father". It is what Mary said to the Angel: "Let it be done as you say." It is what the Saints achieved in their perfection.
But in order to learn TRUE HUMILITY one must first look to God, who in Jesus took on human flesh and assumed the entire human condition with all its weaknesses and dependencies. The Gospels make it clear that Jesus came among us in surrender and service. Paul says that Jesus emptied himself of his divine status to serve the needs of all and was the Servant of all, accepting even an act of humility: his death on the cross.
Jesus' humility demands that his disciples, ourselves, do the same. And here we can see how his doctrine contrasts with the wisdom of the world that encourages WINNING and being FIRST at all costs, fosters aggression, assertiveness and ambition of the self, like "being a self made man".
Therefore, paraphrasing today's Gospel, we could ask ourselves: when was the last time you sought out the lowest place, or volunteered to SERVE, like in a ministry to the most needy and dispossessed who come asking for help every day from the members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul at Holy Rosary? When was the last time you offered to do that? If I have not become a humble SERVANT to others, will Jesus recognize me and claim me as one of his own. These are, indeed, heavy thoughts.
May the peace of Christ be always with you,