22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Homily by Fr. Gerard Jonas

1 September 2019
Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29; Psalm 68; Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24a; Luke 14:1,7-14

Do you remember Goldilocks? In the nursery tale, Goldilocks ventured into a bears’ family homestead and helped herself to everything that was not meant for her. She ended messing up chairs, beds, and utensils for two reasons — first, she’s not a bear and therefore second, everything in the house was not for her nor her size.

In the Gospel Reading today, the Lord teaches us about humility with the two aspects of the same parable. First, speaking to his fellow-guests, humility is basically to live in the truth and according to the truth. Self-entitlement (like with Goldilocks) spurs us to go beyond the truth – our inner personal truth and the truth of the situation or environment we are in. In the first part of the parable, Jesus tells that a place of honor is conferred and cannot be voluntarily claimed. I call this passive humility – to live in truth, we passively receive what is rightfully ours. Presumption, on the other hand, is acting in pride. Then second, turning to the host in the second part of the parable, there is also what I call active humility – to live in truth, we confer on others, out of the sense of justice, what they deserve; and out of generosity, even what they don’t deserve. Here Jesus exhorts that this is done without strings attached, without expecting anything in return. Gratuitously given, what is handed out is for the benefit of the receiver. Another dimension of this active humility is to voluntarily take the lowest place, even way under what we deserve or what we think we deserve. The one who serves does not consider himself superior to the one served, however miserable his situation at the moment may be. Christ took on flesh and proceeded to the lowest place in the world – being born in a stable and dying on the Cross, and by this radical humility, he redeemed us.

We learn humility from Jesus himself who calls on us saying, ‘learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.’ Charles de Foucauld said that “Jesus took the last place for himself so well that no one could ever take it from him.” Then the Father exalted Him to His right hand in the inaccessible glory that belongs to him as Son. But Christ allows us to share in it as we take a similar paschal road. Baptized into his death and resurrection, we are drawn near to God and to Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant and who is open to the poor, the lame, the blind, and the sick, … the outcast. We may have no right to raise ourselves into the place of privilege, but we can rely on His graciousness for He exalts the humble, He seats them at His Table and, showing them the example, He, the Master, goes among us as a servant.
In the First Reading from the Book of Sirach, we are exhorted to be humble. Humble people do not deny their gifts and talents. Humble people recognize that their gifts and talents come from God and so are generous to those who are in need. For “by the humble, God is glorified.”

St Benedict, in his Monastic Rule, enumerates 12 steps of humility to help monks develop the virtue.
As we struggle to overcome our pride with humility, C S Lewis reminds us, “As long as you are proud, you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.” (Mere Christianity, 1952)

Finally, I wish to share with you:

The Litany of Humility
by His Eminence Cardinal Merry del Val

O Jesus, meek and humble of heart,
– Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
– Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being loved,
– Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled, Deliver me…
From the desire of being honored, …
From the desire of being praised,
From the desire of being preferred to others, …
From the desire of being consulted, …
From the desire of being approved, …
From the fear of being humiliated, …
From the fear of being despised, …
From the fear of suffering rebukes, …
From the fear of being calumniated, …
From the fear of being forgotten, …
From the fear of being ridiculed, …
From the fear of being wronged, …
From the fear of being suspected, …
That others may be loved more than I, …
– Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I,
– Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase
and I may decrease, Jesus, grant me…
That others may be chosen and I set aside,…
That others may be praised and I go unnoticed,…
That others may be preferred to me in everything,…
That others may become holier than I,…
provided that I may become as holy as I should,
– Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.