READINGS: Sirach 3:7-18,20,28-29 /Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24 /Luke 14:1,7-14
22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
In the homily of last Sunday, it was mentioned that humility is required to enter the “narrow door” of Paradise. Today’s readings offer us the opportunity to reflect further on the virtue of humility. According to the first reading, “the greater you are, the more you should behave humbly, and then you will find favour with the Lord” (Sir. 3:18). Similarly, at the end of the parable in today’s gospel, Jesus said: “for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the man who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11).
For Christians, humility means that attitude which considers all that one has and one is as coming ultimately from God – for one’s life, strength, talents, intelligence, and therefore his or her achievements are all from God. Humility also means acknowledging one’s limitations: that one is human, and unlike God, he/she cannot do everything on his/her own!
Pride is the opposite of humility: The proud person boasts of his/her achievements, talents and status. He/she usually sees him/herself as more important than others. To an extreme extent, the proud person does not know or see his/her limitations: he/she thinks he/she can do everything. He/she equates him/herself to God. This was the sin of our first parents: Adam and Eve. They were tempted to take the fruit of the tree so that they would “be like God” (Gen. 3:5).
Now, “pride goes before one’s downfall” (Prov. 18:12 ), and certainly pride preceded the first and great fall of Adam and Eve. Pride, therefore, was at the root of the dismissal of Adam and Eve from the paradisiac Garden of Eden (cf. Gen 3:23-24). Fortunately, when pride had closed the gates of Paradise for mankind, humility became the key with which the gates were opened. This is because, it was by humility that the Son of God had to leave His glory and become man to save us (Phil. 2:6-11).
Consequently, it is by the same virtue of humility that God would accept believers into Paradise. Already in the Old Testament, the Book of Isaiah underscored the point that the virtue of humility is a prerequisite for entry into Paradise (“the High and Holy place”): God “will dwell in the High and Holy place with him [or her] who has a contrite and humble spirit” (Isa. 57:15). Therefore, to approach “Mount Zion and the City of the Living God, the Heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb. 12:22) we need humility.
Besides the ultimate blessing of entry into Paradise, God blesses the humble in several ways. Among these blessings, let us highlight the following:
- Prov. 22:29: God “will save the humble person”.
- Prov. 15:13: “before honour is humility” (cf. Prov. 22:14).
- Prov. 10:17: “Lord, you have heard the desire of the humble” (cf. Ps. 9:12).
- Sir. 35:17: “the prayer of the humble pierces the clouds and he will not be consoled until it reaches the Lord”.
Let us reflect further on above verse from the Book of Sirach. Whereas planes and space-shuttles may pierce the clouds, they can in no way reach heaven. On the other hand, the prayer of the humble, according to Sirach, reaches the heavenly throne of grace. Humility is to prayer what fuel is to planes and space-shuttles. Moreover, the power of the fuel of planes and space-crafts is nowhere near the power of the spiritual fuel of humility. The powerful spiritual fuel of humility pushes our prayers beyond the clouds and the higher physical space to God’s very throne of grace! The spiritual power or energy of humility is, therefore, simple amazing!
Let me conclude with these words of St. Peter: “All of you, be humble in your dealings with each other because God opposes the proud but gives His grace to the humble. Bow down, then, before the power of God so that He will raise you up at the appointed time” (1 Peter 5:5-6). Amen.
By Very Rev. Fr. John Louis