“HUMILITY SAVES A MAN, BUT PRIDE MAKES HIM LOSE HIS WAY”
— Pope Francis
- A truly humble man is hard to find, yet God delights to honor such selfless people. Booker T. Washington, the renowned black educator, was an outstanding example of this truth.Shortly after he took over the presidency of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, he was walking in an exclusive section of town when he was stopped by a wealthy white woman. Not knowing the famous Mr. Washington by sight, she asked if he would like to earn a few dollars by chopping wood for her. Because he had no pressing business at the moment, Professor Washington smiled, rolled up his sleeves, and proceeded to do the humble chore she had requested. When he had finished, he carried the logs into the house and stacked them by the fireplace. A little girl recognized him and later revealed his identity to the lady.The next morning the embarrassed woman went to see Mr. Washington in his office at the Institute and apologized profusely. “It’s perfectly all right, Madam,” he replied. “Occasionally I enjoy a little manual labor. Besides, it’s always a delight to do something for a friend.” She shook his hand warmly and assured him that his meek and gracious attitude had endeared him and his work to her heart. Not long afterward she showed her admiration by persuading some wealthy acquaintances to join her in donating thousands of dollars to the Tuskegee Institute.
- On a visit to the Beethoven museum in Bonn, a young American student became fascinated by the piano on which Beethoven had composed some of his greatest works. She asked the museum guard if she could play a few bars on it; she accompanied the request with a lavish tip, and the guard agreed. The girl went to the piano and tinkled out the opening of the Moonlight Sonata. As she was leaving she said to the guard, “I suppose all the great pianists who come here want to play on that piano.”The guard shook his head. “Padarewski [the famed Polish pianist] was here a few years ago and he said he wasn’t worthy to touch it.” —- Source Unknown.
- Lincoln once got caught up in a situation where he wanted to please a politician, so he issued a command to transfer certain regiments. When the secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, received the order, he refused to carry it out. He said that the President was a fool. Lincoln was told what Stanton had said, and he replied, “If Stanton said I’m a fool, then I must be, for he is nearly always right. I’ll see for myself.” As the two men talked, the President quickly realized that his decision was a serious mistake, and without hesitation he withdrew it. —-Source Unknown.
- This is about Mr. Zaveri 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 in 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…….
We begin our three readings today from the Book of Sirach, sometimes called Ecclesiasticus or Wisdom. This is one of those books that most Protestants don’t include in their group of books which constitute the Bible. The Catholic Church has from earliest times accepted this book as canonical. Sirach is a collection of advice, somewhat similar to the Book of Proverbs, but unlike that book which is a collection of sayings made over many years span, Sirach was written or at least collected by one person.
First Reading: Over all, the Book of Sirach places great emphasis on the virtue of humility and shows great sympathy to poor people and the oppressed.
In the short section we read today, we can see the emphasis is strongly on the virtue of being humble, that is, not putting a lot of emphasis on one’s own importance. When compared to God, no one is very important, so Sirach says that if you are a great person, you have to work harder to make yourself lower or more humble, because God rewards and reveals his secrets to the lowly, unspoiled person. This makes sense I suppose because important people have both power and responsibility, and this takes up much of their time. The lowly person is more open to communication with God, perhaps has more time for it, or has been forced to put his or her trust in God more.
The Second Reading, taken from Hebrews, gives another reason for us to be humble. Jesus was humble, so his followers are expected to be humble, trying to imitate his humility. Paul reminds us that Jesus was lowly, particularly in his suffering and death for our salvation (Heb 2:5-18), so we should be like him in order to be exalted with him at the resurrection of the righteous. Paul also seems to imply that we need to follow Christ’s example of humility in our relationships with the less fortunate members of our society.
One of the parishioners of St. Augustine asked him this question: “Father, what are the most important things in a religion?”
“The most important things in religion? I should reply, the first is humility, the second is humility and the third is humility,” answered St. Augustine.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives us a parabolic teaching about those who chose the high place at table when they are invited to a wedding banquet. They should not act as though they are the most important persons in the wedding hall; lest they lose their chosen seats to more distinguished guests. To be asked to leave the place is very embarrassing. I experienced this myself before.
I was invited to a parish feast. When it was already lunchtime, I took my place at the table reserved for priests. After a few minutes, a parishioner approached me and told me to vacate the place because it was reserved for priests. That parishioner did not know that I was a priest since I was wearing sandals and an ordinary T-shirt. So I transferred to another table until another parishioner noticed me and told me to transfer to the table reserved for priests. When the first parishioner was what happened, she apologized and I simply said: “It’s ok.” It brought to my mind today’s parable.
Jesus told this parabolic story to challenge them with their pride and to teach them a lesson about humility. As Sirach had said in our first reading: “Conduct your affairs with humility and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts. Humble yourself the more, the greater you are and you will find favor with God.”
There was this story that I read about a certain person who wanted to go to the City of the Sun. But he would have to pass through a huge plane and mountains. He had to leave his place in the evening so that he would arrive in that city in the morning of the next day. He started to travel. An hour passed, then he heard a voice saying: “Stop. Go down and get some stones and put them in your pocket. Tomorrow, when the sun rises, you will be sad and happy.”
Two hours had passed…three hours…still he heard the voice saying the same thing. As he went down a very steep mountain, the stones in his pocket troubled him and he got hurt and so he threw them away until it was dawn and only one stone was left in his pocket. It turned out to be a diamond. He was happy and sad. Sad, because he threw the other stones and happy because the stone was actually a diamond.
This is the story of life. When we were children our parents would say to us: “Do this and do that.” For example, they told us: “You should be good, you should be truthful and you should be charitable.” If we do this, a time will come when we will be happy. The stones are meant to be the virtues – honesty, truthfulness and charity. The mountainous part is about the trials. If we cannot bear them anymore, we are tempted to throw them away. We wonder why we have to be good or truthful while others are not.
But what is that one stone left? This is the virtue of humility. Through this, we may be able to accept those trials and difficulties with open hands and may be able to handle all those things. And this is also the virtue Jesus used. Jesus said: “”Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me for I am gentle and humble of heart,” (Matt 11:29).
What is humility? Is it to make us inferior to others? That we are no longer valuable? It is not. This word comes from the Latin word humus which means ‘fertile soil’. In other words, to be humble is to be ready to accept who we are with our talents, abilities and limitations or weaknesses. God creates us equal and no one is superior. It means just like Jesus Christ, we also say: “Learn from me for I am gentle and humble of heart.” It also means that we should live a life that Jesus lived – a person for others. We are the hands, the feet and the mouth of Jesus. Each one of us will become Christ for others. We will use our talents and gifts not for ourselves but for those who need them most.
There is a story of three persons boasting to each other about who had the best Bible. The first said: “Mine is the best translation because this is the New American Bible. This is being used in the Mass. The words used are modern and easy to understand.” The second man boasted: “Mine is the best because this is the Jerusalem Bible. It is very poetic and it is used in our charismatic group meeting.” The third man said: “I like the Bible translation of my mother because she translated it into her concrete life, she lives everything written on it.” The other two were silent.
The story summarizes the challenge of Jesus Christ in our Gospel today. Jesus challenges us to translate the Word of God into our daily lives. He challenges us to make the Bible alive in our hearts, minds and deeds. This is one way of being humble.
“My son, conduct your affairs with humility and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts,” (Sir 3:17).
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 might feel like saying, “My way or the highway!” 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 admits 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.
Dave is very easy going and has what I call “quiet faults,” meaning most people don’t immediately see them. I, on the other hand, have “loud faults” – some of my greatest struggles have been with my mouth! Now, I certainly don’t take joy in Dave’s weaknesses, but it does help on occasion for someone like me to know that he’s working on things too.
7. A humble person happily serves other people, and they don’t do it to be seen. They do it for God, knowing their 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.
First 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.”
The older I get, the more I realize the importance of humility. Now I pray things like, “Lord, I can do absolutely nothing without you today. Please help me – I need your grace in every situation.”
I encourage you to pray and ask for God’s help. Nobody changes overnight, but by God’s grace, you can begin to develop an attitude of humility…and discover the life you really want.
Fr. Gaspar Fernandes, OFM Cap.