C Cycle – 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time 22
The husband of a leading figure in the U.S. government was recently involved in a traffic accident and during the investigation it was determined he was legally inebriated. The only reason I mention this is because one of his first words to the police when they arrived was, “do you know who I am.”
Just last week in the gospel we heard Jesus warning us about the dangers of believing we deserve rewards because we are special. He said, “the first shall be last and the last shall be first.” Today we have Jesus giving us another lesson about humility. What makes the difference between a person who is humble and one who exalts himself. What makes the difference between someone who expects a place of honor and someone who is happy to be invited to the gathering.
Working with people all my life I have discovered there is a total misunderstanding about what humility is and what it is not. Many individuals, look at humility as being timid, weak, lacking in confidence and unwilling to stand up for themselves. If that is your concept of humility you need to watch the movie Hacksaw Ridge. It is a true story about Desmon Doss, an army medic in WW II. Doss received the medal of honor for his heroic action during the battle of Okinawa. He was a conscientious objector who had to fight to be in the army and soon discovered those he served with in his platoon did not look upon him with kindness. He would not carry nor fire a gun, so How could those he went into battle with trust him if he would not join in the battle?
But he has something else which was hard to recognize or acknowledge as a character trait greater than being able to shoot a gun. It was a belief in his own ability to serve and help his unit achieve greatness. We call what he had humility but in a truer sense it is a belief and a confidence in who we are because of Christ and a faith to trust in him not ourselves. He believed in the promises of God and the and knew he was called to serve.
The humble know their weaknesses and know that God delights in us and sees only the good he created us to become. Because we know God’s nature is to forgive and to love us it makes us secure in our destiny. That security and faith translates into a humbleness. We do not have to try to impress anyone or seek their approval because we know we will sin, and we will fail to be the person we should be. But unlike Adam and Eve, we do not have to cover our sin or hide from God because we know God is forgiving and merciful.
The humble know they will have moments of greatness and moments of total and complete failure. It is hard for us humans to live up to the demands of discipleship. Remember how Jesus praised Peter when Peter acknowledged he was the Messiah, only to minutes later chastise Peter for failing to understand how Jesus’s death would be good for all of us. The humble know the heart of God longs to have us all seek his embrace of forgiveness instead of trying to make up for our sin.
Worshipping a God who breathed the stars and created light by a word, who holds the universe in his hands should make us all humble and feel very small.
A good kind of small which has us understanding the greatness of God, the power of God and how God is always focused on us. He knows when we stand and when we sit. He knows every word before we utter a sound. His eyes are upon you individually and that should give us a confidence that we like Doss can enter the battle armed with nothing but faith and a trust in him to care for us.
We do not need seats of honor because we are honored in the eyes of God. That is enough to fill us with enough self-esteem, so we do not need the praises of men. The humble are secure in who they are and that allows them to quietly serve others, because the humble do not have to do things publicly to gain the praises of others. Humility allows them to seek out others who are using their gifts and encourage them to use those gifts to bring glory to God not to themselves.
The humble look to God and give praise to God because he is the source of all their gifts, their insights, and their willingness to follow his will even when it does not make sense. Did you ever hear Peter brag about his walking on water? Did you ever hear Peter brag about being the “rock” upon which God would build his church? No, he brags about forgiveness, mercy, and the power of God to change a sinner like him.
Paul who had reason to boast called himself the least of the disciples. Paul was a prideful Pharisee and yet he was changed by forgiveness. Mother Theresa heard God’s voice calling her to serve those dying in the streets of India. Her writings tell us she never heard his voice again, but she served year after year with great humility. What she did took great strength and a faith in God that shows us humility flows from our relationship with God. The reason the humble take the lowest seats of honor is because their focus in on serving not on being served.
In fact, humility should be a natural state for us for we are made in the image and likeness of God. Think about the Trinity. There is no hierarchy, it is not the typical organizational structure with God as CEO. They all are at work glorifying each other and working in us to reveal to us who we are and how we are destined to be like them.