Humility — the essential condition for God’s invitation to his heavenly banquet
Father Leo Haussmann
Homily from the Televised Mass, NewsCenter1
Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 28, 2022
The common theme of today’s readings is the need for true humility, which leads to a generous and blessed sharing with the needy. The readings also warn us against all forms of pride and self-glorification.
The reading taken from Sirach, gives a lesson in humility. The author recommends that his readers find true greatness in living humbly. “Conduct your affairs in humility,” Ben Sirach said. “The more you humble yourselves, the greater you are.”
He instructs us to be honest about ourselves and to become conscious of our limitations, acknowledging our true position before God as creatures and sinners. Humble people do not deny their gifts and talents. They recognize that their gifts and talents come from God and use them accordingly.
In the Gospel passage, Jesus was invited to the Sabbath dinner given by a prominent Pharisee. Jesus was already sort of a celebrity noted for curing the sick. People are drawn toward celebrities, but Jesus was not interested in such fame. Without putting on an air of superiority, he used the occasion to teach a lesson about the kingdom. He presented humility as the essential condition for God’s invitation to his heavenly banquet.
Humility must be expressed in the recognition of one’s lowliness before God and one’s need for salvation. In the reading Jesus taught the Jewish religious teachers what genuine humility was and what the dangers of pride were. “Go and take the lowest place,” Jesus recommends, “so that when the host comes to you he may say, ‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’”
In other words, we are always to situate ourselves in such a manner that the only way we can go is up.
The great boxer Mohammed Ali once boasted, “It’s hard to be humble when you’re as great as I am.”
C.S Lewis gives us a better perspective on humility when he said, humility is “not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”
Thomas Merton said, “Pride makes us artificial, and humility makes us real.”
So, at the heart of humility is to see ourselves as God sees us. True humility is recognizing that everything good we have, comes from God. God made us and gave us natural gifts and talents. We, in turn, are thankful to God for those gifts and talents, and show our thankfulness by using them in service to God and to one another.
The word humility comes from the Latin word humus which means “fertile soil.” For just as pride is the root of all sins, “humility is the root, mother, nurse, foundation and bond of all virtue,” as St. John Chrysostom once remarked.
St. Augustine said: “Humility is so necessary for Christian perfection that among all the ways to reach perfection, humility is first, humility is second, and humility is third.” He added, “Humility makes men angels, and pride makes angels devils.”
St. Bernard declared, “Pride sends man from the highest elevation to the lowest abyss, but humility raises him from the lowest abyss to the highest elevation.”
In summary, humility is grounded in a psychological awareness that everything I have is a gift from God, and, therefore, I have no reason to boast. I must not use these God-given gifts to elevate myself above others. Rather, humility means the proper understanding of our own worth. We recognize that we are made in the image and likeness of God and that we are called to help build the kingdom of God with our God-given gifts. Essentially, this means to connect with the homeless, the handicapped, the elderly, the outcasts, and the impoverished — the “street people” of the world — with a sacrificial love that gives without expecting a return.
In the gospel Jesus told the people not to invite friends and neighbor and the wealthy to their banquets, but rather to invite the poor, crippled, lame and blind who would be unable to repay them in kind.
Jesus practiced what he preached when he gave us the Eucharist. We celebrate that coming banquet feast in heaven every time we come together for Our Lord’s supper in holy Mass. We are the spiritually poor, crippled, lame, and blind that Christ calls to himself. We are poor in need of the God’s true riches, crippled in need of the Lord’s help to straighten ourselves out, lame in need of the Lord’s grace to walk by faith, and blind in need of the light of faith to see things clearly. Let us accept Jesus’ invitation by actively participating in this Eucharistic celebration. Then, let us go forth from here to give ourselves in humble service to the lowly of our world. This is the way to form our hearts in humble gratitude and to live with that peace of heart that only true Christian humility can bring us.