Humility is central to all the virtues, just as pride is the heartbeat of all vices. To be humble means to be modest in all things by keeping to one’s position and not seeing oneself as better than others. According to C.S, Lewis humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.
Richard Paul Evans, in his book “The Tower,” tells the story of a young man who wanted to become the greatest in his community. To achieve his intention, he builds a wooden tower reaching towards the skies and sitting there; he would be looking down on everyone. One day a bird comes around to tell him that there is an older woman in the community who is higher than him and everyone is going to see her.
The young man descends from his wooden tower and sets out to search for the older woman only to see that what she does is to feed a flock of birds and people come all over to see her. The woman later tells the young man that greatness is not about being above others but by lifting them. Jesse Jackson would support this in his statement that says, “never look down on anybody unless you’re helping them up.” Mother Teresa did not achieve greatness through some prideful performances but her humble service to the poorest in the slums of Calcutta.
Humility: Keeping to your God-given Position
The First Reading today (Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29) begins with the instruction to conduct our affairs with humility much as God favors the humble. Humility, according to the passage, restricts us from seeking after things that are beyond us.
Furthermore, in the Gospel Reading today (Luke 14:1, 7-14), our Lord Jesus Christ reinforces the discourse on humility with the parable of a wedding banquet where people scramble for places of honor. The irony is that those who aspire to rise to places of honor would face the humiliation of demotion to lower seat while those who sought for lowly positions would be upgraded to higher positions, “for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11). St. Paul tells us that through humility our Lord Jesus Christ was exalted and given the name above every name such that every knee bends and every tongue confesses at the mention of his name (Phil. 2:6-11).
The back story to the parable is our Lord’s careful observance of how people were scrambling for positions of honor at a dinner in the home of one of the leading Pharisees. People who struggle for positions have one common thing in mind, and that is the desire to be above others and lead the parade; in other words, it is the struggle for supremacy which intimately connects to pride.
Pride takes us away from God, but humility brings us closer to Him. St. James makes it more explicit, quoting the Book of Proverbs (3:34) when he says that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). True worshippers of God are typically humble because one needs to bend very low to jump higher.
Moving Forward: There is no Spiritual Growth without Humility
The Book of Genesis tells us that God created the man from the soil of the earth and breathed upon him, and he became a living being (Genesis 2: 7). The Latin root of the word soil is “humus,” and from that root, we have the word “human” as well as the word “humility.” Looking at this etymology very carefully, we understand that God not only created us from the soil but also wants us to keep our lives as lowly as the soil base.
Notice again that after fashioning the man from the soil, he was lifeless until God breathed on him. Here, we understand that our lives amount to nothing without God. For the fact that we depend on God’s provision of the air, we continuously need for survival should be enough to move us to humble submission to Him.
Humility is key to our communication and connection with God; it is the quickest route to the heart of God. If pride goes before a fall, then upliftment comes after humility. The liturgy of the word today invites us to reappraise our humility quotient. There is a critical need to think about ourselves less. We need to restrain ourselves from the undue projection of ourselves while degrading others.
Life is not just about us and what we want. Humility is priceless and godly. It helps us to pray well, love more profoundly, and to serve with joy. The best thing you can do for yourself today is to resolve to pull down the walls of pride and to follow the route of humility though it may not be as rosy and secure as the lofty but destructive steps of pride.
May we end this reflection with St. Paul’s instruction to the Philippians (2:3), “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit but in humility regard others as better than yourself.” Have a glorious Sunday and a graceful week ahead.