HUMILITY and SERVICE – ARE THE MOTHER OF ALL VIRTUES
Many years ago, a rider came across some soldiers who were trying to move a heavy log without success. The corporal was standing by as the men struggled. The rider asked the corporal why he wasn’t helping. The corporal replied, “I am the corporal; I give orders.” The rider dismounted, went up and stood by the soldiers and as they were lifting the log, he helped them. With his help, the log got moved. The rider quietly mounted his horse and went to the corporal and said, “The next time your men need help, send for the Commander-in-Chief.” After he left, the corporal and his men found out that the rider was George Washington.
The message is pretty clear. Success and humility go hand in hand. When others blow your horn, the sound goes further. Just think about it? Simplicity and humility are two hallmarks of greatness. Humility does not mean self-demeaning behavior.
A man received a promotion to the position of Vice President of the company he worked for. The promotion went to his head, and for weeks on end he bragged to anyone and everyone that he was now VP. His bragging came to an abrupt halt when his wife, so embarrassed by his behaviour, said, “Listen Bob, it’s not that big a deal. These days everyone’s a vice president. Why they even have a vice president of peas down at the supermarket!”
Somewhat deflated, Bob rang the local supermarket to find out if this was true. “Can I speak to the Vice President of peas please?” he asked, to which the reply came: “of fresh or frozen?”
This is a true story about a man named Mr. Zavere Poonawala who is a well-known Parsee industrialist in Pune, India. He had this driver named Ganga Datt with him for the last 30 years on his limousine, which was originally owned by Acharya Rajneesh.
Ganga Datt passed away recently and at that time Mr. Poonawala was in Mumbai for some important work. As soon as he heard the news, he canceled all his meetings, requested the driver’s family to await him for the cremation and came back to Pune immediately by a helicopter.
On reaching Pune, he asked the limo to be decorated with flowers as he wished Ganga Datt should be taken in the same car which he himself had driven since the beginning. When Ganga Datt’s family agreed to his wishes, he himself drove Ganga Datt from his home up to the ghat on his last journey.
When asked about it, Mr. Poonawala replied that Ganga Datt had served him day and night, and he could at least do this being eternally grateful to him. He further added that Ganga Datt rose up from poverty and educated both his children very well. His daughter is a Chartered accountant and that is so commendable.
His comment in the end, is the essence of a successful life in all aspects: “Everybody earns money which is nothing unusual in that, but we should always be grateful to those people who contribute to our success. This is the belief, we have been brought up with, which made me do, what I did”.
An inspiring example of humility…….
In the First reading: The “just one” who is faithful will suffer at the hands of the wicked. Nonetheless, God will “take care of” the “just one.” God did not save Jesus from suffering and death at the hands of those who rejected his teaching, but God did raise Jesus to new life. God does “take care of” those who are faithful. People gossip. They always will. Sometimes their talk is idle chatter. Sometimes their gossip turns ugly, slanderous, and, ultimately, vengeful. So, the innocent suffer from the venom of those who speak behind backs and seek their brand of “justice” in the dark. The believer suffers at the hands of those who hate God. The righteous suffer at the hands of the jealous and the devious.
In these passages from the “Wisdom of Solomon,” the author wrote about the true nature of evil. It sought vengeance upon just almost without reason. In the context of the book, the wise (i.e., the person who followed God’s will and tried to live a good life) would prevail, but only through God’s help. Living out that trust divided the good from the bad. It was that trust that drove the wicked to frenzied action.
Trust in God has a price. Sometimes trust costs us our reputation. Sometimes it costs us relationships. In the case of a few, it cost them their lives. But, trust means that God will win out in the end. It means he will save us. It means the price is worth paying.
The Second Reading comes at the same issue from a different angle. Here is James’ analysis: “You covet but do not possess. … You do not possess because you do not ask. You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” He is saying that the remedy for disordered desires is prayer, not because prayer is magic but because prayer places itself in the world of the covenant, acknowledges the Giver, and opens the heart to a healing of our addictive desire.
The structure of this periscope (an optical instrument for viewing objects that are above the level of direct sight or in an otherwise obstructed field of vision, consisting essentially of a tube with an arrangement of prisms or mirrors and,usually, lenses: used especially in submarines) is as remarkable as that of last Sunday’s Gospel. First we have a prediction of the Passion (the second of three in Mark), followed by an exhortation to live out the cross in Christian life. Here this exhortation is expressed in terms of servanthood and humility. It is, of course, the evangelist himself, not historical reminiscence, that is responsible for the ordering of the material.
Mark is again polemicizing (to practice the art of disputation) against the false teachers of his time, who understood Christ as a divine miracle-worker and themselves as his successors. Against this false Christology and false concept of ministry the evangelist sets the ideal of the suffering servant, of service and humility exemplified in the cross.
Jesus taught his followers the true meaning of leadership. Leadership does not mean power but service. Power strangles life and brings a slow death. But, service brings life, even from death itself. The measure of servant leadership lies not with adults, but with children.
To emphasize Jesus’ vision of leadership, he gives them the example of serving a child. Unlike our society, children were the least important people in ancient cultures; children had the status of slaves. People had children to serve them and provide financial security in their elderly years. And they had many children, because the mortality rate for children under 16 years of age was 50 percent. Childhood was a precarious time in the ancient world.
To serve someone as lowly as a child took an act of extreme humility. Unlike our Western societies that honor and esteem children, ancient societies honored the elderly in one’s clan. Reflecting this outlook, St. Thomas Aquinas once answered the question, “If there was a fire, whom should I rescue first?” Thomas listed in the order of importance: one’s parents first, one’s spouse second, one’s children last of all. Children were the least important. Serving one such as a child really showed true leadership for they served the ignored and the helpless.
But who was the “child” of which Jesus spoke? Who was the Christian to serve? In one respect, the Christian was to show hospitality to those who had the social status of the child: the outcast, the sinner, the sick and feeble. In another respect, the Christian was to show hospitality to all of God’s children, regardless if they were friend or foe. In a third respect, the Christian was to show hospitality to those who had become the “children” of the community, the Christian missionary who risked life and limb to spread the Good News. Obviously it took wisdom to discern how one would serve these different groups. But Jesus made one thing clear. Leadership meant serving all. Above all, it meant esteeming the least important.
To serve one like children, to place all others on the same plane as oneself, is the road to Christ and the Father. This service is exemplified with Christ’s death on the cross.
What are some other character traits of a humble person?
1. The humble can always ask for help, and they don’t insist on everything being done their way.
2. They are quick to forgive others, difficult to offend, and content to wait on God for vindication when they have been wronged.
3. They are patient and don’t get frustrated with the weaknesses of others (Galatians 6:2).
4. The humble person is a peacemaker. In fact, we need humility to maintain peace in our lives. Romans 12:16 is one of my favorite scriptures. It says, “Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty… but readily adjust yourself to [people, things] and give yourselves to humble tasks. Never overestimate yourself.” Wow! Just imagine if we all decided to adopt just this one command from the Bible. If you’re like me, so many times you feel like saying, “My way or no way at all!” But there’s a better way… a way that leads to peace with ourselves and others.
5. A humble person knows when to be quiet. It’s certainly not wrong to talk, but a humble person is comfortable allowing others to have center stage and doesn’t feel the need to speak their mind in every situation.
6. A humble person sees his own weaknesses and can readily admit them. When we open up to others about ourselves, it can actual encourage and help them realize they’re not the only ones who deal with things.
7. A humble person happily serves other people, and he doesn’t do it to be seen. He does it unto God, knowing his reward will come from God.
8. A humble person is very thankful. This is one reason why they’re usually so happy. When we live with an attitude of gratitude, it releases joy and power into our lives.
9. A humble person has a tender conscience and is quick to repent.
10. A leader who is truly humble treats everyone with respect. How a leader treats people is the quickest way to find out their level of humility.
1 Peter 5:6 says, “Therefore humble yourselves [demote, lower yourselves in your own estimation] under the mighty hand of God, that in due time He may exalt you.”
Our ambition is to serve those who, for one reason or another, are not in a position to serve themselves. Jesus goes, assuring his disciples and us that in serving the most vulnerable we are in fact serving him. In the presence of the disciples who seemed consumed with an ambition for power for its own sake Jesus identifies himself with the powerless, those who are most dependent on our care. Over against the ambition of the disciples to serve themselves, Jesus puts the ambition to serve him as he comes to us in and through the weakest members of society. In the Gospel, Jesus is putting before us what his family of disciples, what the church, is really about.
The greatest person in the church is the person who serves others selflessly and with humility, with no thought for what they might receive in return. The greatest person in the church is the person who is willing to take the last place so that others can be first. The greatest person in the church is the person who seeks to serve those who can never give anything back in return. Does that describe you? Or, has God spoken to you about this matter of serving him by serving others. If he has, you need to come before him and surrender to his plan for your life.
“The world tells us to seek success, power, and money;
God tells us to seek humility, service and love.”
— Pope Francis
Fr. Gaspar Fernandes, OFM Cap.