MAY THE WORDS OF MY MOUTH AND THE MEDITATION OF MY HEART BE ALWAYS ACCEPTABLE IN THY SIGHT OH LORD MY STRENGH AND MY REDEEMER.
The Power of Humility
"For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” St. Luke xiv. 11.
Every healing miracle Jesus performed on the Sabbath day only made the scribes and Pharisees more certain that Jesus was dangerous, not religious and must be stopped. We need to remember that the orthodox Jews of his day regarded him as a law-breaker. He healed on the Sabbath; therefore he worked on the Sabbath; therefore he broke the law. In today’s gospel reading it is quite probable that when the Pharisees invited Jesus to dinner they had the man with dropsy in the house just to see what Jesus would do. Think about it for a second, they regard him as a law breaker yet invite him to dinner on the Sabbath and there just happens to be a man with dropsy present. But without hesitation Jesus healed the man. He knew perfectly well what the Pharisees were thinking. But he was not done with them. He noticed how they had chosen their seats at the table with the Pharisees who thought of themselves as most important seated at the head of the table. If a less distinguished guest arrived early at the dinner feast and sat at or near the head of the table and later if a more distinguished person arrived, the man who arrived first would be told to move to a seat further down the table. This would create a very embarrassing situation for the first guest and the host. Jesus solution was simple; when you arrive take a seat furthest away from the head of table. Then the host can invite you to move closer to the head of the table and no one is embarrassed. The humility of the first guest would gain him more honour. But why didn’t the Pharisees do this? As Jesus points out they “exalteth” themselves. They showed no humility because they were self centered and full of pride or said differently, full of themselves.
Humility has always been one of the characteristics of the truly great. Thomas Hardy, an English writer and poet who was nominated for the Noble Prize for literature eleven times used to submit a poem to newspapers and include a stamped self addressed envelope for the return of his manuscript in case the newspaper was not interested in publishing it. Needless to say the newspapers would gladly have paid enormous sums for his work. Even in his greatness he was humble enough to think that his work might be turned down.
Recently, we lost a true American hero when Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, died. One of his most praised qualities was his humility. Even though he had every reason to have an astronomical ego, he went about his job with a quiet strength and confident competency. And he did it all for an $8.00 per Diem in addition to his $17,000 a year salary. He explored the heavens, but when he returned from his journey to the moon, he kept his feet firmly planted on the Earth. For the longest time after returning, he denied giving interviews. Finally, Armstrong talked to the author James Clash. When Armstrong died, Clash said of his legacy:
“That’s the kind of man Armstrong was. In a world where everything is about ‘me, me, and me,’ he was a rare throwback to a time when humility and character counted, when people routinely risked their lives not to get rich, bloviate, or self-aggrandize, but for their country, science, and exploration.”
Any Sunday you can see someone aggrandize themselves by watching an NFL football game. A player who makes a good play, in other words does his job, acts like he just single handily won the Super Bowl. Many professional athletes and movie stars strut around like they are better than anyone else and if asked they will tell you how good they are. I often wonder who they are trying to convince me or themselves.
We can retain our humility by realizing the fact that however much we know, we still know very little compared with the sum total of all knowledge. However much we have achieved, we have still achieved very little in the end. However important we may believe ourselves to be, when we retire from our job, life and work will go on just the same. And we can retain our humility if we set our lives beside the life of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of all good life. If we see our unworthiness in comparison with the radiance of his stainless purity, pride will die and self-satisfaction will be shriveled up.
Jesus says to the Pharisees ‘whoever thinks of himself as greater than others shall one day be humbled and he that humbles himself shall be well thought of.’ One of the most amazing things about the scribes and Pharisees is their staggering lack of humility.
They would go to endless trouble to formulate and to obey their petty rules and regulations; and yet they did not understand how their lack of humility made them less acceptable to God. Men and women of real stature know nothing of self-importance. To those who are truly humble shall come the ultimate exaltation; life everlasting in the Kingdom of God.
Let us pray
O Heavenly Father, who in thy son Jesus Christ, hast given us a true faith, and a sure hope: help us, we pray thee, to live as those who believe in the Communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, and the Resurrection to life everlasting, and strengthen this faith and hope in us all the days of our life, through the love of thy Son, Jesus Christ our Saviour.
And now unto God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost be ascribed all might, majesty, power and dominion as is most justly due this day; world without end. AMEN