22ND SUNDAY ORDINARY TIME
Luke 14:1, 7-14
“The One who humbles himself will be exalted!”
Humility seems to be the key word from today’s readings, beginning with the Book of Sirach, “Conduct your affairs with humility!” Or, “The greater you are, humble yourself the more, and you will find favor with God.” In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus speaks of humbling oneself in several places, and that person will be exalted.
What exactly does humbling mean? Some believe it means pointing out our weaknesses or bad points. The word comes from the French, humus, or earth, to be like the earth, or to remember our roots; “From dust you came, to dust you shall return!”
Remembering that we shall all return to dust in the end, is very humbling, and it does help keep our focus on the next life.
There are three persons that I usually associate with humbleness. The first is Jesus, and the best example is from the passage from the second chapter of Philippians, verses 6-11. Paul writes, “Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus…” (that is, humility) and then he quotes from a popular hymn in his time, probably only written a few years or more after Jesus’ resurrection. “…Though he was in the form of God, Jesus did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross…” And the hymn continues with God exalting Jesus’ name above every name. The hymn is known as the Kenosis Hymn, Greek for ‘emptying’; the Emptying Hymn.
God emptied himself of his divinity so that He could become human and experience for himself what that was like.
Jesus didn’t stop there. He could have, and it would have been enough. But the hymn says that Jesus was obedient unto death, death on a cross.
So when Jesus talks about humility, he should know what that is like.
The other person I always associate with humility is Mary, the mother of Jesus. I think she gets a bum rap among non-Catholics. This humble woman never exalted herself. The Church exalted her over time, realizing the important role she played in our salvation history. In the end, God chose her to carry out our salvation through his son, Jesus. Once Jesus begins his ministry, we never hear from her again, except to see her standing at the foot of the cross, silent. I don’t want to say much about Mary since we can’t really do her justice without taking a whole course in Mariology.
The last person that I associate with humility is Joseph, the father of Jesus. There is very little written about him, and what little there is can only be found in Luke’s Gospel at the very beginning. But I believe that Jesus’ whole attitude towards his heavenly Father was learned through his foster father, Joseph, even humility. In the time of Jesus, a carpenter was really a handyman, a jack of all trades, someone who would do anything, even help build-up a stone fence that may have fallen. He wasn’t necessarily a carpenter that we think of today, someone who makes fine furniture, but a repair man. That is how the Hebrew word is translated, handyman. Jesus had very humble beginnings indeed.
I think Jesus would feel very comfortable around the day laborers of our time. Fortunately he would also feel comfortable around anyone. Today’s gospel is simply telling us the same thing; learn to be comfortable around anyone you meet, to the point that you see them as your Friend, or Brother in Christ and invite them around the table of life!