HUMBLE PEOPLE ARE NOT SHOW OFFS!
Today’s Gospel is a simple teaching on humility and on generosity. It is a very typical gospel instruction because it flies in the face of all so called worldly wisdom.
Humility is not too well understood. I suppose the fact that pride is so prevalent has something to do with it. We live in a world which encourages self-promotion, and it is all too easy to get absorbed into the rate-race where everyone is trying to be Number 1! There is something extraordinarily powerful about humility, because of the disposition of character that is required to discipline the ego, and to know our proper place. Pride is so widespread in our society that it can sometimes go undetected by those who display it. On the other hand, we always find ourselves deeply touched while in the presence of someone who embodies genuine humility.
The Australian Macquarie Encyclopedic Dictionary on page 606 says, ‘Humble: – modest, meek, without pride, courteously respectful….’ It is not the kind of virtue that would give your brownie points for seeking a job with Apple…..but, Apple is looking for people who are courteously respectful! Being humble for many people seems to be a weak attribute, not a strength! Yet, when one displays humility in the Business world, it is often secretly admired or trampled on, and the people in question using Australian terminology could ‘be taken for a ride’! That means abused, and not respected by the ‘dog eat dog people’. Believe it or not, this inhuman quest of walking on humble people is alive and well!
However, on the flip side of the coin, the humble person is not necessarily naive as to what is going on; quite to the contrary, and has to prune his or her response accordingly. I am not surprised by that now, as I am in old age, but as an 18 year old Professed Religious, it did surprise me, somewhat! It surprised me because I was young and inexperienced, and was coming to know that I am a floored person living with floored people, and that is the place where we strive and respond to experience Salvation…..i.e. seeing the saving hand of God in our lives and the lives of others, inviting us to rise up, and know what it means to be saved! Jesus, the human face of the Father, is the epitome of humility. It seems to me that humility is a direct offshoot of Biblical Wisdom. Let’s be refreshed in our notion of Biblical Wisdom. For starters it is generally known in Scripture that it is a female characteristic of God.
How come, you might ask? Because the writers of the wisdom literature generally use the feminine form in speaking about it, and its source. Wisdom seems to be that atmosphere within the Godhead which is the inner movement of all creative, loving, abiding intentions of God. It seems to be the zest for unconditional love, the at-one-ness of true Shalom. It gently vibrates as an inner intensity of truth, and the infinity of graciousness and justice which is the uncaused, cause of all, that is in God. We are constantly being invited to be caught up, to be changed, and to be refined, so that at the moment of our last breath the gentle docking procedure where life is changed, but not ended, is the gentlest of movement into the gossamer of God’s life, which is only a breath away from us.
Let’s look closely at the mind and actions of some of the Pharisees in today’s Gospel. Notice that they ‘watched him (Jesus) closely’. There are a number of instances in the Scriptures where we see the Pharisees in this position. Being ‘watched’ can be an unnerving experienced. It presupposes that they were watching Jesus in order to catch him out! There is a mighty big difference between watching someone and looking at them, or better still gazing at them. I am sure that we have all had the experience of being watched……I used to feel being watched when in Grade 3, I was asked by Brother, to do an addition or subtraction in LSD…..Pounds, Shillings and Pence…..not the other stuff! (Drug) Three boys at a time would be working at the blackboard. When finished, we were asked to stand aside and Brother encouraged the boys in the class to give their verdict! If any of the kids at the blackboard got the sum wrong, another boy would put a black Dunce’s Cap on our head….and then the class would chant as one, ‘You’re a Dunce!’
No wonder my personality is has had some bruises…. How did Jesus feel while knowing that he was being watched! Not out of love, but out of arrogance? We only have to look at Facebook and other Social Media to see that modern day Pharisees are alive and well. Many of them continue to watch people…..especially the Pope, some Bishops, some Priests and some Religious. The Temple Police are alive and well too……watching Priests, Bishops, the Pope and Religious to catch them out! I have been the victim of so called Temple Police numerous times….and reported to higher authorities in the Church. Generally, the modern day Pharisee and Temple Police are sad looking, miserable in nature, and caught up in a perfectionism which cripples their ability to love and accept life in all its messiness. Some these so called Temple Police like watching the Presider of the liturgy so that everything be exact in all words and actions as in the Book, for the Prayer to be valid! This is all about Rubrics; not about Liturgical Worship. It’s all about reporting people to the authorities for just being human, creative and responding to the Spirit’s movements in the ‘Now’! I, and many Priests know what it is like to be watched! And I bet that you know too, it’s not just in Church that this happens.
Jesus calls for selfless service, and this is at the heart of Christianity. It consists of putting others before self. This sometimes is not easy, because selfishness is very much part of our human nature. It is part of our human instincts to look out for number one. If we were to line up God, others, ourselves as being the proper order of things, then sin consists in mixing those up in any way, e.g., putting others in front of God, or putting ourselves in front of others and so on.
One of the very sad effects of deep inner pride is total self-interest, lacking in generosity, very unloving, arrogant, self-righteous and unhappy with a precipitation towards Narcissism. In other words this effect stems from the unreal world of living where someone thinks that everybody should bow and scrape to them. Another effect which can cripple a person in many ways is if they think that they should be paid for every act of service they do. In their minds, there is no room for spontaneous service, generosity, gentleness mixed with surprises of self-giving ……it is the intoxication by the $ which seems to motivate them, and possibly can lead to the destruction of their real purpose for living. However, I don’t see many teenagers contributing to the Collections during Mass, these days. It is very good training for parents to give their little children some money to put on the plate at Mass, and this will form them into being ‘giving’ people. At the same time when the Propagation of the Faith Appeal comes around and the assistance for retired and sick priests, parents again could do well to give their children money to go on the plate. If their kids are working part time at McDonalds, KFC, or other places, it is good training for them to give something reasonably substantial on the plate, from their own pocket…..Anyhow enough of that!
Jesus tells us that ‘the greatest in my Kingdom are those who serve’. He showed this by example when he washed the disciples’ feet, when he sent them away to rest and reflect, while he took care of the crowds. He took a child, put the child in the center, and told his disciples what real greatness was. His message was a sign of contradiction to this world, because his values are completely different. There is no way that his message could be accepted or understood by someone with a worldly mind-set.
On the other hand, it is not all sad stories! It is ever so inspiring to see the silent achievers and quiet workers who minister to each other in our Parish Communities. Every week I hear of stories of how Parishioners visit the sick, care for the lonely and keep an eye out for those who need a smile and a little encouragement. I have seen people in recent times rally around those who have received sad news, who also in turn enter into prayer, and the Intercession of St Mary Mackillop. Mixed with loving social action, there is little feeling of being alone in trials. When you come to think of it, and I am sure that you would agree with me, there is far more humility, love and genuine care for one another in our community than we would ever know….why, because people of humility are not show offs!
Fr Kevin Walsh
Sydney New South Wales Australia
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web:https://realhomilies.wordpress.com/
Manly Beach in Sydney, Australia