Be Humble.

“For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Welcome and thank you for joining us this day in our worship of, and dedication to, the Lord.

Last week we spoke of the distinction between listening and hearing. We heard Jesus tell us that the one who listens and walks the gospel way, i.e., does the work Jesus speaks of, will recline at table in the kingdom of God. Today we hear Jesus referencing another table, the one that was in front of Him in the home of one of the leading Pharisees.

We are introduced to the scene hearing that Jesus was being observed closely and carefully.

The ironic part of Jesus being observed carefully was that it had nothing to do with respect or honor. Rather, it was people lying in wait for a mistake, so they could take charge and destroy Jesus.

Jesus confronts this situation by speaking of humility. How can one rightly order their lives in relation to God and other people?

We all have that automatic detection system, the red light that goes on when someone with false humility starts talking about – themselves. We know how hard our own humility can be. Even stating that one is humble calls attention to oneself, magnifies oneself.

The temptation as I prepared this homily was to use examples from my life – oh how humble I was – and speak about how we can all effectuate humility in our lives – by following the thing Fr. Jim does. Yikes, humility is hard. That was a lesson for me.

For us, humility is the way we follow Jesus, how we walk in His gospel way. Jesus lays out examples for us today.

It starts with showing up when invited, making the effort, then placing oneself in the lowest position, doing the things that need doing while not calling attention to oneself. Then when the party begins, taking the lowest place.

Jesus also instructs us to avoid doing anything for self-gain. If we are throwing the party, invite those who never get invited. If we are playing a sport or game, pick those who never get picked.

Those are practical examples of humility in action. Doing those things helps us to live humble lives, to exemplify Christ. The truly humble person is not only a listener and doer of Jesus’ gospel but more-so a person totally committed to emptying oneself for Jesus Christ.

What this means is to finally extricate ourselves from God’s throne, to stop pushing Him aside so we can decide. It is about living up to all those commitments we made before God at our baptism and confirmation, in marriage, and in every other way – living only for God and others so to be exalted in heaven at God’s table.

Seven

For if by the transgression of the one, the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ overflow for the many.

For those many who joined us on Ash Wednesday, you heard me speak of our reflection for this Season of Lent. Throughout this Lent we will delve into the problem of sin and use our study to set strategies that move us from self-centeredness and spiritual shortcoming to a life deep in line with the life of Jesus.

Throughout this Lent we will walk through the seven deadly sins and their antidote, the seven contrary virtues. We will study contemporary examples of sin in TV, film and literature. In studying, we will find what is required of us. In doing what is required we will grow stronger. Having grown stronger, we will walk out of Lent armed with God’s grace and we will overcome!

Pride. That word stands on its own as the first of the seven deadly sins. Indeed, pride alone is the root sin cause of all other sins. We see it in Genesis. Pride took hold of Adam and Eve and they decided they could do what they please without regard to God’s instruction. I am smarter than God, I am more powerful than God. I stand on my own, full of myself, believing only in my own abilities, and say thanks/no thanks to God’s grace.

Pride. Why do we do it. Why are we so full of ourselves? One individual wrote: ‘We do it because our well-meaning elementary school teachers told us to believe in ourselves.’

If you have ever watched Gilligan’s Island, pride was portrayed as the Professor – smarter than all and the source of all solutions. He didn’t need anyone else. If you like SpongeBob, pride is Sandy the Squirrel. Sandy, from the Big State of Texas. She believes herself to be the best at everything from karate to extreme sports, and she boasts about it all.

St. Augustine wrote that pride changed angels into devils; and it is humility that makes men as angels. As we take inventory this first full week of Lent, let us consider the parts of our life where pride has taken root. The strategy is to chop at those roots with increased humility, to be other focused, to consider the other more important than myself, to do without seeking recognition, when recognized to be gracious, and to follow the example of Jesus who left the glory of heaven to teach us and die for us. Let us be genuine in humility and ask God to humble us all the more.

Wait! I need
to ask.

“Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.”

We look to continue our process of growth and becoming in our Christian journey; to become better in our walk with Jesus and each other.

In our Old testament scripture, we encounter Solomon, the young successor to his father, David, who had just died. Solomon, age twelve, took David’s throne. Before his passing, David acknowledged Solomon’s intelligence and wisdom saying: “You are wise; you will know what to do to.”

It is longstanding worldly human practice to go with what people say about us. We trust their wisdom and understanding, especially if they are people of power in our lives. Our bosses compliment us, we eat it up. A talented person says we are talented or special, we trust their judgment. A professor notes our intelligence, we trust that.

It would have been easy for Solomon to just trust what his father had said. After all, these were words from David’s death bed – words most people value in a very special way. He was wise and intelligent according to his father, the King. Thus, when God spoke to Solomon, Solomon could have asked for anything else. Why ask for wisdom and intelligence if he already had it? Instead, he humbled himself before God. He accounted himself as having nothing and asked God for the very things his father said he already had.

It should be this way for us as we grow and develop in our Christian walk. We should be the children of our heavenly Father asking Him for all gifts. This requires vast humility. Having that kind of humility is why Solomon was blessed and praised by God! Having that kind of humility gave Solomon not only the gift of wisdom and intelligence, but also long life, riches, success, and the life of his enemies.

St. Paul expands on this saying: We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

If we love God, if we walk humbly with Him, if we trust judgment to Him and stay aligned with His will, we will be vastly rewarded. The littlest ones in our lives get this in a special way. If they are asked to do something or go somewhere, if they are asked to make a judgment, their instinct is to stop, say wait, and say: ‘I need to ask.’

This is what God is seeking from us. I think I am wise – Wait, I need to ask. I think I know what I should do – Wait, I need to ask. My judgments are correct and righteous – Wait, I need to ask.

The treasure hid in a field is God’s gifts for us. It is the kingdom and all it holds for us. There is a great treasure for us if we only ask.

Reflection for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Humility

O Lord, it’s so hard
to be humble.

My child, conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts. Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God. What is too sublime for you, seek not, into things beyond your strength search not.

The Book or Sirach has been used throughout the history of the Church to present moral teaching to catechumens (those preparing for baptism) and to the faithful.

The Book’s author was a sage, and was filled with love for wisdom, the law, and divine worship. As a wise and experienced observer he spoke to his contemporaries, and speaks to us, about maintaining faith and integrity.

Sirach organized his book by subject matter including: the individual, family, and community in their relations with one another and with God. It discusses friendship, education, poverty and wealth, laws, religious worship, and many other matters that are important to us even today.

Jesus was calling the people he was dining with to recall the wisdom Sirach offered centuries earlier. They had forgotten. He reminds them of the humility they were to exercise.

God calls us to live humbly, to be poor in spirit and meek as so well recorded in the Sermon on the Mount. All of Jesus’ teachings were focused on calling us to recognize where true treasure and greatness lay.

Jesus calls us into a relationship with God who is perfect while we are to acknowledge our imperfection and sin. We must be humble enough to see our shortcomings and rely on God for the forgiveness and redemption we need.

Jesus calls us to live with each other and our wider community as servants, and not just servants, but servants open enough to welcome all as our brothers and sisters.

Jesus calls us to live simply and without reliance on the things or the honors the world offers. We must remember what God offers us is far greater. He is our treasure and greatness. St. Paul reminds us that living in relationship with God, being members of His community, the Holy Church, gives us entry into real greatness – the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, the company of angels, the assembly of our brothers and sisters in glory, and God Himself. We come to Him through Jesus, our mediator who covers us in the blood – the blood He shed in humility to the Father’s will.

It is hard to be humble, meek, poor in spirit, and simple. Let us set forth with the humility to recognize that and to know by God’s grace we will work diligently to gain humility.