Sir 3:17-18, 20, 28-29
Heb 12:18-19, 22-24a
Lk 14:1, 7-14.
At the opening of the Gospel we are told that Jesus noticed “how the guests were choosing the places of honor at the table.” In this behavior we first see vanity. But as we observe more we can notice pride and self-esteem that devalues others. Jesus admonishes us to be humble, that we learn to also value and esteem other persons. Thus we wait for our host to show us our proper position at the banquet table. We human beings have many insecurities, and as a defense mechanism, we put on masks that make us think of ourselves as better than others. We forget that if I have good qualities and achievements, others also have and maybe even better. If I am a well-travelled person, there are also others who have done so. If I have degrees and titles, others also have and may have even higher degrees than I. If I have millions in the bank, others also have and maybe even more. Our greatest insecurity is our poor health. We become irritable and unbearable to others. We cannot accept being dependent on others. Illness is the most humiliating of all, and yet it is also the best opportunity to be totally dependent on God and to be humble in his hands.
God who is all perfect without any defect, who possesses all good qualities and attributes, has to teach us humans to be humble. As we read in Phil 2:6-8, “Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at. Rather, he emptied himself and took the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men. He was known to be of human estate, and it was thus that he humbled himself, obediently accepting death, death on a cross.” And because of this God highly exalted him. We humans exalt ourselves, we do not wait for God to do it for us, and in the process we hurt others even our loved ones. Before we know it nang insulto na tayo, nang lalait na tayo. Being arrogant never pays. On the other hand, humility leads to other virtues. Mama Mary’s humility led her to obedience: “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word.” Elizabeth of Portugal was a queen; she established hospitals and served the sick personally. Her humility led her to love of neighbor and service to the needy. San Juan de Dios humbled himself to take care of the homeless, the sick, the cripple, the dying outcasts of the town. Yes, humility led to following Jesus to love the neighbor, give oneself to serve the needy, and offer one’s life for others as Jesus did. On the contrary pride and arrogance leads one to despise others, abuse them and exploit them, behaving in a way contrary to Jesus’ commandment to love one another.
St. Augustine in his letter 118 said: “Do not seek to pursue and reach the truth other than the way which is guaranteed by God, who sees the weakness of our path. In that way the first part is humility, the second, humility; the third, humility; and this I would continue to repeat as often as you might ask direction.” He was conscious of what St. Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 4:7, “What have you that you have not received.” In the exercise of humility, I must acknowledge that everything I have comes from God, recognize the gifts I have received, and make these gifts bear fruits in the service of my neighbor. St. Monica, on her part, was a peace maker. Though she heard many bitter things from one woman about another when hatred of an absent enemy is belched out like undigested food in sour speech to a present friend, still she would betray nothing of what one had said of the other. In the dining room of St. Augustine’s monastery, there was a sign: “He who speaks against another is not welcome here.” This was another virtue demanded by St Augustine of his monks. Charity in speech is a must for all who follow Christ. As we have seen, charity follows after humility with the saints who dedicated themselves to care for the needy. Charity in speech also flows from humility when we esteem others better than ourselves. Jesus is the Son of God, the King of Kings and yet he was the most humble and obedient to the Father’s will and compassionate towards us, giving of himself for our salvation, even to dying on the cross for us. How come there is so much pride and arrogance in me?