Many years ago, a man riding on a horse came across some soldiers who were trying to move a heavy log of wood across a barrier without success. A corporal who was commanding them was standing by as the men struggled. The horse rider who was all dressed up to his face asked the corporal why he was not giving them a helping hand. The corporal replied, “I am the corporal; I give orders.” The horse rider came down from the horse, went up and stood by the soldiers and as they were lifting the heavy log of wood, he helped them to get it across the barrier. The horse rider quietly mounted his horse and before moving he told the corporal, “The next time your men need help, send for the Commander-in-Chief.” It was after he left that the corporal and his men found out that the horse rider was George Washington, the first American president and the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army during the American revolutionary war.
There is yet another fitting story. A lorry loaded with fruits was coming into a small city from a very far farmland. As it approached the city gate it was discovered that the crossbar at the entrance of the city would not allow the lorry to pass through as the load on the rear of the lorry made it higher than the cross-bar. Many people came with various suggestions as to how the lorry could pass. Some suggested taking another route which would mean going miles away. Some people thought about off-loading the lorry and up-loading after the lorry had passed but that will entail a full day’s job. It was a mentally derailed man who came to the place suggested that the easiest remedy was for them to deflate each of the four tyres of the lorry a little thus making the lorry to go down low and enable the passage and when this was done the lorry passed through
Today can fittingly be called “Humility Sunday” judging from the outlooks of the first reading (Sirach 3:17-20.28-29) and the gospel reading (Luke 14:1.7-14). May be a look at the word “humility” will give us a ponderable foundation. The word comes from the Latin humilis which means lowly, close to the earth. The root is actually humus which means soil. Hence to be humble is literally seen as being down-to-earth. Humility goes with selflessness; hence anyone who is full of himself or herself will have a hard time being humble. It is important also to establish that humility is not the following:
· Humiliation: That is making oneself suffer shame.
· Eye service: Pretending to be submissive.
· Low self-esteem: Low evaluation of oneself.
· Pusillanimity: Lacking courage or cowardice.
· Foolishness: Lacking sense of good purpose/unwise.
If pride goes before a fall then it will be apt to say that humility goes before honour and success. (See Prov.18:12; 29:23). This can be seen in the two stories above. The first reading instructs that the greater you are the more you MUST humble yourself so that you can find favour with God. This clearly shows us that humility is not only a virtuous disposition; it is also a platform for more blessings from God. Little wonder then St. James declared that God loves the humble but detests the proud (Jas.4:6). It is thus the attitude of the wise to be humble in all things to be acceptable and pleasing to God.
In the gospel reading, our Lord Jesus Christ used the imagery of a marriage banquet to drive home his point about humility. According to him the best thing to do when you are invited to a marriage feast is to take the lowly seat first so that from that place you can be upgraded. This is in lieu of taking a front seat even before the ceremony commences as the danger might be that one can be unseated when someone more honourable arrives. He ended the instruction by saying that whoever exalts himself will be humbled but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
Pride is the cause of various loses and failures in life. Due to pride most people have lost both material support and divine sustenance. Many people have gone to hell and many are still making their way there on account of pride. It takes humility to know God and to love Him and our neighbours. It takes humility to pray. It takes humility to repent from one’s sins; it takes humility to say “I am sorry”. The problem with humanity is that there is abundance of pride but scarcity of humility. It takes humility to let go and to let God. Our salvation was an act of humility. St. Paul said that:
Though he (Jesus Christ) was in form of God he did not count on his equality with God a thing to be grasped but he made himself nothing taking the form of a servant, being born in likeness of men. And being found in human form, he HUMBLED himself by becoming OBEDIENT even unto death, death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name. (Philippians 2:6-10).
Humility does not consist in what we profess with our lips but in what we do afterwards. That is why we can say that humility shows itself in obedience. If it is genuine it must be able to move us to do something positive. Our Lord Jesus Christ is a perfect example of humility.
· He was born as a King but was laid in a manger (a lowly place for animals)…Luke 1: 12& 16.
· He had nowhere to lay his head… Luke 9:58
· He came from Nazareth (a small insignificant town) where nothing good can be found…John 1:46.
· He took the function of slaves by washing the feet of the disciples as a sign of humility and service …John 13:4-5.
· It took humility to forgive his executioners (Luke 23:34)
· Humility was his way of life (Matt. 11:29; 20:24-28).
Humility is a garment we all need to wear. It would not only gain favours for us before God, it will also open a lot of doors for us. Humility not only makes us to know our place and keep to it, it also moves us to allow others to have their respective places. We can use humility to change the lives of many people. When at his first appearance as the Roman Pontiff, the Holy Father Pope Francis I bowed his head and asked the world to pray for him his act of humility was productive as it touched and changed lives. During a presentation at a certain University a student was holding his paper at his left hand while making his presentation. Sighting him, a professor scolded him harshly and asked him to hold the paper at his right and sit down. The young man raised his right arm for everyone to see that half of it was cut off. The professor seeing this came to the boy knelt down before him and begged to be forgiven because he did not know about his disability. This act of the professor touched and changed the life of not only the boy but many of the students. God is not interested in what we are but in who we are that is where humility can be found. Whatever we think we are someone somewhere is already that and many others are beyond that.
As we launch into this new week let us bear in mind that we need to be humble in all things because we are nothing without God. Humility is a dependable route for success; discard pride and take up humility and you will live to enjoy a new you. If you are not humble you may stumble!
Happy Sunday and more blessings in the week ahead.