Today’s Gospel at Mass was drawn from Luke, chapter 14. In it, Jesus teaches on the importance of humility, that quality of being humble, of freedom from pride or arrogance.
Jesus is attending a dinner on the sabbath which is being held at the home of one of the leading Pharisees. In attendance are a number of Pharisees and scholars.
As the guests are seating themselves for the dinner, Jesus takes note of exactly where they are rushing to be placed. Who is trying, for instance, to maneuver themselves into what are usually considered as seats of honor at the tables?
Jesus then extends a parable:
“When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, 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 everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
How many of us have rushed to be first or early to a party in order to get the “best seat in the house” or to get a “prime table” for ourselves? Is Jesus saying that we shouldn’t stand on ceremony or politics, or rush to ensure we get that best seat? No.
What Jesus is teaching here is that you are the product of your actions and will be remembered for how you treat people. That goes in a “now” party setting. It also, more importantly, goes for your overall life.
No one besides you is going to care that you are sitting at what appears to be a place of honor if you are seen as a fool, a criminal, a braggart, or a tyrant. In the end, more affection and attention will be given to someone who has treated guests well, no matter where that person is seated in the room.
The great 20th century theologian C.S. Lewis taught: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.“
Be proud of your accomplishments. Certainly, you have worked hard for them. But in the vast majority of instances the sacrifices of others made those accomplishments possible. When being recognized, rather than boast of your achievements, thank those who helped you to reach this point of recognition and honor. That is demonstrating humility.
Your children, and one day possibly your parents, will need your help with things that may seem beneath you. Changing diapers. Bathing. Feeding them. Helping with these things out of love when in some instances the acts themselves may repulse you is a form of humility.
Jesus demonstrated great humility in His coming to us here on Earth. He is God, after all. And yet, He came to us in the flesh, lived through many hardships that people experienced during that time, and then gave His very life in excruciating fashion so that we could be freed from sin. He gave up His life for you. That is about as humbling as it gets.
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus was asked by his disciples “Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” His response was a typical lesson on humility:
He called a child over to stand among them and said “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.”
In God’s Kingdom, we will be rewarded for humbling ourselves. For thinking of and acting on behalf of others. For helping those who perhaps cannot, for whatever reason, ever return the kindness and charity that we show them.
There are many ways that we can all begin to better practice humility a bit more in our lives. Begin today and find that your life will be far more rewarding. Jesus promises that to us.
This article marks the return of my “Sunday Sermon” series. A regular feature here at my website over the years, it will now return on a regular basis. You can find the prior pieces at that link or by clicking on the label below.