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Stay Humble

Updated on September 2, 2019

”My child, conduct your affairs with humility,
and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts. Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God.” ~ Sirach 3:17-18).

Renowned televangelist Billy Graham was fond of telling a story about an encounter he once had in a small town on the day of a speaking engagement later that evening. He arrived early that day and found himself in need of a Post Office so that he could mail a letter. While searching the town, he came across a young man, and upon approaching him he inquired “Excuse me young man, could you tell me where the Post Office is?” The young man quickly gave him clear and concise instructions to his destination. After thanking him, Graham said “you know I’ll be giving a talk this evening, and I would like to extend an invitation to you. It’s important that you be on hand; during my lecture I will tell you how to get to Heaven.” Without missing a beat, the young boy said “Thank you, but I think I’ll pass.” Somewhat dumbstruck by the boy’s response, Graham asked rather incredulously “Why?” The boy responded “You didn’t even know how to get to the Post am I supposed to believe that you know how to get to Heaven?” Reflecting upon this story in later years, Graham would say that this incident served as a great lesson in humility, one that he took with him throughout his entire life.

Today’s Gospel (Luke 14:1, 7-14) deals with the virtue of humility, as does our 1st Reading (Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29) which is where I’d like to begin. “What is too sublime for you, seek not, into things beyond your strength search not” our sage author advises us, an earlier adaptation of Clint Eastwood’s observation that “a man’s got to know his limitations.” Doing so is not only an act of humility, but an example of profound wisdom as well, two virtues that so often go hand in hand.

Returning to our Gospel, a well-known passage from Luke which deals with honor, honor however that is unfortunately directed inward. As the Pharisee Members on hand jockey and scrambled for position, status, prominence at the table, Jesus tells them “do not recline at table in the place of honor. A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him, and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say, “Give your place to this man,' and then you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place. Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, 'My friend, move up to a higher position.' Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table. For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." We don’t really know how the Pharisees reacted to this lesson, and although we can ascertain that they probably weren’t thrilled, by appealing to their ego and fear of being embarrassed (a fear that is so often exacerbated amongst the extremely self-important) it was no doubt a message that penetrated and resonated.

God’s very act of sending Jesus, his only beloved son, he whom he loved the most, to die for our sins is an act of unparalleled humility. And then there’s Jesus himself, who humbled himself to share on our humanity, “humbling himself by becoming obedient to death - even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:8).

Humility is clearly a virtue that Jesus held in the highest regard. The readings chosen for daily mass over the last few weeks have certainly reflected upon this trait often, and subsequently, so have I ( Exaltation in the Heavenly Kingdom does not happen without humbling one’s self first here on Earth.

So as we go forth seeking to cultivate this most noble of traits in the look-at-me culture that discourages it, oftentimes even viewing it as a sign of weakness, let us turn to our humble savior, who implores each of us to “take my yolk upon you, and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.” ~ Matthew 11:29


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