Saturday, August 31, 2013

What is Humility?

 This Sunday's Gospel text from Luke 14:1,7-14 contains a challenge for all of us, a challenge to be humble. What exactly is humility? To begin with the negative, it is not putting yourself down or making believe that you don't have God given gifts and abilities. 

  So then, what does humility look like?  The quote on the left by CS Lewis is a good starting point.  The Gospel text cited above gives us even more insight.  There is a parable about guests taking the highest places at a wedding banquet.  This may seem strange to us because at most of our wedding receptions people are assigned a seat. It was evidently different at the time of Jesus.  The real issue with the story is a sense of entitlement.  There is a great deal of discussion today about  cutting back on entitlement programs, but a sense of entitlement applies to much more that feeling entitled to money from the government.  How many of us have a sense of entitlement to various honors and privileges.  We feel offended when we don't get them. The humble person, because he or she has no sense of entitlement is able to receive everything as a gift and thus is often feeling grateful and appreciative.

    In the second part of the Gospel text Jesus tells us that if we hole a banquet we should invite "the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind."  We are to do this precisely because these are people who cannot repay us.  The lesson on humility here is that we see that our love is genuine when we expect no reciprocation, even when we reach out to people who can return our generosity.  To be humble then is to be truly loving in our dealings with others, giving generously with no expectation of return.

    Pope Francis is certainly an example of humility for us.  St. Francis of Assisi, after whom the Pope is named, teaches us well about humility when he says in one of his admonitions to the early friars, "What I am before God, that I am, and nothing more.  This shows another dimension of humility.  It is not self-abasement, but rather honest self-assessment.

  Finally, I pray that I not get too proud of this lesson on humility.

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