Nov. 5, 2017

THIRTY-FIRST SUNDAY OF THE YEAR, 2017

WHAT IS IT ABOUT HUMILITY?

Readings: 1st- Mal. 1:14b-2:2b, 8-10; 2nd- 1Thes. 2:7b-9, 13; Gospel Matt. 23:1-12

Sometimes, we might be wondering, what it is about humility that it is so much stressed in the Bible. Jesus remarks today, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matt.23:12). The life and teachings of Jesus demonstrate that he does not only teach humility, rather he invites us to his own life which epitomizes humility. Right from my seminary days, two ejaculatory prayers have remained fresh in my heart: One says, “Jesus meek and humble of heart. Make our hearts like unto yours”. The other one says, “Heart of Mary so closely united with the Heart of Jesus: Come to our assistance”. Both prayers remind us of the TWO HEARTS fused together in a loving humble relationship. Each time you lose it, use the mantra: “Jesus, meek and humble of heart: Make my heart like unto yours”.

Humility is at the core of our Christian theology. Christ warns us, “You know that among the gentiles the rulers lord it over them, and great men make their authority felt. Among you this is not to happen. No, anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be your slave” (Matt. 20:25-27). And that’s exactly what he did- he became slave for our sake.

In the gospel (Matthew 11: 28-30), Jesus invites us with the words, “Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am meek and gentle in heart”. At the introduction of his Christological hymn, Paul echoes, “Make your own the mind of Christ” (Phil. 2:5). The Blessed Virgin Mary declares at the annunciation, “For he has looked on the humility of his handmaid. Yes, from onwards all generation shall call me blessed” (Lk.1:48). Christ became humble till death. His humility gave birth to our redemption. Mary’s humility gave birth to Christ the savior who died for the world.

Christ reminds his disciples, “My yoke is easy and my burden light” (Matt.11:30). This is what he contrasts with the life of the Pharisees in the gospel of today. The life of the Pharisees is all about ostentation. They brandish themselves as with authority, they show off. They widen their prayer boxes (phylacteries) and lengthen their tassels so that everyone might notice their devotion to the law. The Pharisees love high places of honor in the synagogue. They love to be seen as rabbis and teachers. The Pharisees see others as sinners. They present the publicans and tax collectors as unworthy of God’s love and attention. But they don’t do the things they promote. Christ debunks such attitude. He warns his disciples against such prideful hypocrisy.

The proud person cannot do authentic charity because for him, giving is about showing off. Such person’s actions are aimed at attracting praises. Think about the narcissist who struggles constantly with self-esteem. That’s pride. The proud person usually struggles with internal self-identity and lacks the sense of remorse. Such person does not conceive of mistakes and never uses the word “sorry”, even in error. The pride lacks a sense of service. Ironically, for proud people, their need of others is deep, but their real love for people is shallow. Their relationships become quite troubling and problematic because only those who agree to be under them stay, sometimes in grumbling fashion. The Pharisees and Scribes are that way. They love using people. They need obedience and loyalty. They need recognition and endorsement. They need people to validate their ego. Some men are that way too, so also some women. Some husbands are like that. They always want to be on top, the wife is only a subject that must affirm their ego. Christ condemns such behaviors, “Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example”. This is like his previous injunction to his disciples to be wise as the serpent and as innocent as dove (Matt.10:16). It is one thing to keep the law, another to emulate those who make the law. Christ doesn’t want us to pick fight with proud, arrogant persons, else we be like them.

Christ concludes, “The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted”. Humility is the secret of every relationship. Archbishop Fulton Sheen says, “Humility is not self-contempt but the truth about ourselves coupled with a reverence for others; it is self-surrender to the highest goal” (Thoughts for Daily Living). Think about that, “self-surrender to the highest goal”. Humility is emptying of the self, offering up what others think is most valuable. The humble might look weak but humility is the secret of strength. It is the key to all friendships. Marriages, for instance, crash mostly because of lack of humility. When couples recognize the need to be humble, they become more accommodating of each other’s weaknesses. They become more available and willing to support genuinely. And because humility goes with service, the humble becomes the one who receives acknowledgement in the end.

Let’s remind ourselves again today of the need to be humble. Parents, must be humble to serve as role model. The husband must be humble to love his wife and respect her. The wife must be humble to appreciate and respect her husband. Children must be humble to obey their parents and teachers. Political leaders must be humble to serve those who elected them. Church leaders must be humble to guide and direct their flock. Everyone must look unto Christ and learn from him. Without humility, your relationships crash. Without humility, it becomes difficult to keep other virtues. 

Always remember this prayer, perhaps make it personal: Jesus, meek and humble of heart. Make my heart like unto yours.