Reflection for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)
Rev. Fr. Bonnie Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.
Did you ever come across a humble person? I bet someone may be flashing through your mind right now. But before you conclude about the individual’s humility, let us look at what humility is not. Humility is not a kind of facial expression. It is not how one talks, walks or dresses. Humility is not a façade or mere physical expression. Moreso, humility is not weakness.
There is a difference between looking humble and being humble. The first is external, while the second is internal. Therefore, humility is an inner quality of the mind and heart that helps us to recognize and accept our limitations with reference to God and other people. St. Paul defines it as a selfless attitude that prevents us from seeing ourselves as better than others (Phil. 2:3).
The Gospel of Humility
The First Reading (Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29) gives us some timeless lessons about humility. The ingenious writer of the Book instructs an unnamed child to conduct his affairs with humility because it brings greatness and favor from God.
In the Gospel Reading (Luke 14:1, 7-14), our Lord Jesus Christ gives a powerful instruction on humility as a guest at dinner after observing how people struggled to choose places of honor at the banquet table.
In the illustrative message, our Lord discouraged the inclination to choose places of honor when invited to a wedding banquet. The advice was to prevent the shame of being moved to a lowly position when a more distinguished person shows up. We understand that Jesus was making a statement on humility when he concluded by saying, “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Pride Kills Humility
Pride is the simple reason people struggle with humility. It appears to be a significant part of our defective human nature, and we carry it around everyone without knowing it. Pride is not only the opposite of humility; it is a very destructive flipside. Our Lord Jesus defines it in the Gospel Reading today as the tendency to exalt oneself.
The Apostle John identifies pride of life as one of the evil products of the world with the lust of the flesh and lust of the eye (1 John 2:16). Anywhere you see pride, there is an inflated sense of self-centeredness and self-exaltation. The prophet Isaiah (14:13-14) tells us that pride was the reason for the fall of Satan as he planned to ascend to the heavens and make himself like the Most High.
Pride has continued to pull down many individuals, systems, and structures since its inception. There is a consistent divine disaffirmation against pride. The Book of Proverbs (Prov. 11:2) says, “when pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” Even more disturbing is the frequently referenced passage that says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (Prov. 3:34; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5).
The Two Paths To Humility
Our reflection had established earlier that humility is an attitude of the mind and heart. What remains is to describe how it works. To be truly humble, one needs to be obedient and grateful. In order words, a disobedient and ungrateful person will find humility challenging.
Obedience and humility are strong bedfellows; you cannot have one without the other. So writing to the Philippians (2:5-7), St. Paul challenged them to have the same mind that was in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not consider his equality with God. Rather he made himself nothing taking the nature of a servant and found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death on a cross.
Gratitude opens the door to humility and dismisses pride. To be truly humble, you need to be grateful for who you are and what you have. It takes humility to show gratitude to God even when everything is not perfect. In the First Letter to the Thessalonians (5:18), St. Paul says, “Give thanks in all things for that is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”
Moving Forward: Learning the Humility of Jesus Christ
The best way to learn is to learn from the best. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the ideal model of humility. In the “come to me” instruction from the Gospel of Matthew (11:28-29), Jesus said, among other things, “learn from me for I am meek and humble, and you will gain rest for your souls”.
The entire life of Jesus Christ on earth was a huge testimony of humility and how God exalts the humble. One thing that contrasted Jesus and the authorities during his time was his humility apart from his righteousness.
As we go through life, we will need to focus on the outcome of our actions and choices. Humility and pride have their respective rewards. In the parable, humble ones are exalted, while the “self” exalted are humbled.
As we go through life, may we keep our eyes on humility, which serves as a dependable pathfinder of favors from God and people. It is difficult not to admire the humble. Even God said they would inherit the earth (Matt. 5:5).
God bless you, and have a blessed weekend and a glorious week ahead.