THE HUMBLE WILL BE EXALTED
- 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 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 supermaket 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?”
- Robert Roberts writes about a fourth grade class in which the teacher introduced a game called “balloon stomp.” A balloon was tied to every child’s leg, and the object of the game was to pop everyone else’s balloon while protecting one’s own. The last person with an intact balloon would win.
The fourth graders in Roberts’ story entered into the spirit of the game with vigor. Balloons were relentlessly targeted and destroyed. A few of the children clung to the sidelines like wallflowers at a middle school dance, but their balloons were doomed just the same. The entire battle was over in a matter of seconds, leaving only one balloon inflated. Its owner was, of course, the most disliked kid in the class. It’s hard to really win at a game like balloon stomp. In order to complete your mission, you have to be pushy, rude and offensive.
Roberts goes on to write that a second class was introduced to the same game. Only this time it was a class of mentally handicapped children. They were given the same explanation as the first class, and the signal to begin was given. But the game proceeded very differently. Perhaps the instructions were given too quickly for children with learning disabilities to grasp them. The one idea that got through was that the balloons were supposed to be popped. So it was the balloons, not the other players, that were viewed as enemies. Instead of fighting each other, they began helping each other pop balloons. One little girl knelt down and held her balloon carefully in place, like a holder for a field goal kicker. A little boy stomped it flat. Then he knelt down and held his balloon for her. It went on like this for several minutes until all the balloons were vanquished, and everybody cheered. Everybody won.
- One day a sage came to a King for an interview. The sage had to wait for a long time because the King was very busy. Finally, the King said he could come in.
When the sage entered the hall, the first thing he did was to take off his hat and bow to the King. Immediately the King took off his crown and bowed to the sage. The ministers and others who were around the King asked, “What are you doing? He took off his hat because he is an ordinary man. But you are the King. Why should you have to take off your crown?”
The King said to his ministers, “You fools, do you think I wish to remain inferior to an ordinary man? He is humble and modest. His humility is a peerless virtue’. He showed his respect to me. If I did not take off my crown, then I would be showing less humility than an ordinary man, and I would be defeated by him. If I am the King, I should be better than everybody in everything. That is why I took off my crown and bowed to him!”
- Once upon a time a rider came across a few soldiers who were trying to move a heavy log of wood without success.
The corporal was standing by just watching as the men struggled.
The rider couldn’t believe it. He finally asked the corporal why he wasn’t helping.
The corporal replied: “I am the corporal. I give orders.“
The rider said nothing in response. Instead he dismounted his horse. He went up and stood by the soldiers and as they tried to lift the wood and he helped them.
With his help, the task was finally able to be carried out.Who was this kind rider?
The rider was George Washington, the Commander-in-chief.
He quietly mounted his horse and went to the corporal and said, “The next time your men need help, send for the commander-in-chief.”
When was the last time you bragged? Or acted humble? Were either justified? Why?
Let’s face it. We all brag at times. And we all act humble at other times. Sometimes the brag or the humble voice is justified. Parents brag about children. Leaders exercise direction through quiet service. Both can be appropriate, depending upon the context.
The context can make each inappropriate. Especially when the context is the heart. Is the heart self-centered or other-centered? After all, the prayer of the self-focused is unheard, because it is simply self-talk. But, even the selfish can have a glimmer of hope, when his prayer finds its root in humility.
First Reading: The Book of Sirach (also known as Ecclesiasticus) was penned about 180 B.C. in Jerusalem. The book acted as a text for young wealthy students instructing them in the ways of wisdom.
Sirach revealed the status of the Jewish capital under Syrian domination. Society was polarized. Rich vs. poor. Jew vs. Gentile. The powerful vs. the weak. Sirach’s proverbs and general advice sought to guide the reader’s conduct through such tenuous times.
One of the areas where public behavior and private disposition merged was Temple worship. How should one offer sacrifice? This was not a simple matter. Because of the direct intervention of the Syrian overlords in the affairs of the Temple, many people held worship there as suspect, even comprised. In addition, some of the city’s rich and powerful abused their station, offering worship for show while oppressing the poor and helpless. Others used the public arena of Temple worship to advance themselves and their agenda. Many of the underclass believed worship at the Temple had become merely a show ritual that paid lip service to Yahweh.
Second Reading: “When the world lets you down, look to God.” That was Paul’s attitude. Earthly glory had failed, but Paul could look forward to eternal glory. God had accomplished much through the apostle. Through his efforts and the efforts of those who followed him, the Good News had been preached to the Gentiles in Greece and beyond. Christianity was no long a small movement within Judaism. It was beginning to fulfill the mission of preaching universal salvation. Paul would soon enjoy the fruits of his labors with his Savior in the heavenly Kingdom.
Many of us might have the same emotions as Paul. We might feel trapped, abandoned, and at the end of our time. While we might not be imprisoned facing death, we can gain encouragement from the words found in 2 Timothy. When we might think we are alone and without a friend, we find our true friend. When we might think our time is at an end, we will know that our time with the Lord is without end. “When the world lets you down, look to God.”
How has God helped you in times of loneliness and helplessness?
Gospel: There is one thing that the Lord detests the most in the life of a Christian. It is pride. When we hold ourselves in high esteem and look down on others, God cannot be happy with us. When we make ourselves important and make others look like nothing, we turn the face of God away from us. What the Lord wants is humility in everything we do.
In Luke 18:9-14, Jesus gives us a parable on the right Christian attitude. It is a parable or a story that is meant to teach us a moral lesson. In this story, a Pharisee and a tax collector went to the temple to pray. The Pharisee prays first; he praises himself in the name of prayer and pours contempt on the tax collector because in his eyes, the tax collector is a sinner and therefore, is not fit to live. So, rather than pray the way he was supposed to pray, he did two things that are not a part of Christian prayer. He praised himself and passed judgment on his fellow human being. When it was the tax collector’s turn to pray, he presented himself humbly to God asking for mercy and forgiveness. He did not deny the fact that he was a sinner, and he did not pretend to be good when he was not. This act of humility and sincerity brought him Justification and salvation according to Jesus. In Luke 18:14 Jesus says, he went home justified while the Pharisee did not.
What Jesus wants us to look at in this passage is not about who we are, whether righteous or sinful, but the attitude we have. Truly, the Pharisees were very devoted people in their religious life. They used to fast every Monday and Thursday for the good of the nation and paid tithes as Jesus says in Matthew 23:23. It is also true that the tax collectors were very corrupt people because in collecting taxes, they duped people and enriched themselves unjustly. The problem is that the Pharisee was proud in his righteousness; he held himself higher than he really was and despised the sinful tax collector. He had neither love nor compassion for the Publican because of his sins and would have preferred to see him dead. Jesus tells us that this sort of attitude is wrong for anybody who calls himself a child of God. Even though the Pharisee tried his best to live according to the law of his religion, he needed to be kind to the other person even if he was a terrible sinner. On the other hand, the tax collector was forthright and humble; he said the right prayer acknowledging his sinfulness and praying for forgiveness.
Let us look at this story from the point of view of our situation today. How do we Christians look at people we know who are lost in their ways? The tendency is to giggle and feel happy that we are Church people, Christians who attend mass or religious service every Sunday and are involved in the ministries of the Church. We feel proud that we are good and not messed up like others. Some of us do not even give the opportunity to others to repent because we do not think they can repent. Or maybe I should say, we would not want them to repent. We send them to hell by our attitudes while they are still alive; we judge and condemn them because of their sinful life. Jesus is calling those who behave this way to change their attitude and be more compassionate and considerate. We are to thank God for the grace of a holy and faithful life and pray for our lost brothers and sisters in their situations. In Romans 15:1-3, St Paul tells us that we who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Our Christian duty is to look for our neighbor’s good and not our own just as Jesus did. For those of us who are like the tax collector, who live in sin, Jesus wants us to humbly acknowledge our sinfulness and ask God for forgiveness. We cannot afford to live in sin and be proud of it because the Christian call is a call to holiness. What Jesus says in Matthew 18:14 is that if we are humble in our Christian life, we shall be justified and exalted.
The fact is that God prefers the humble and cast away the proud. Proverb s 16:18 says that “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” St Augustine says that “Pride changed angels into devils while humility makes men into angels.” Let us therefore develop a positive attitude toward others especially those who are struggling in sin. Let me say this: If we cannot do any other thing for our brothers and sisters who are lost in sin, we can be praying for them. If we cannot approach them and speak to them about changing their ways, we can lift them up to God and pray for their deliverance and conversion. But first we have to be sincere in our Christian life. As Jesus says in Luke 6:39, “A blind man cannot lead a blind man.” It is only when we step up in our ‘spiritual game’ that we will be able to bring others up in the faith. When we do these things, our merciful Father will look down with favor and bring us to salvation.
16 POINTS For Humble Beginners
1. Success is temporary. Success is a journey, not a destination. When you become successful, don’t rest on your laurels. As soon as you take your eye off the ball, you risk losing your edge.
2. Be thankful to God always. God is the author of life. Be grateful and be responsible and sensitive towards others, treat others like Christ would do. Blessings will pour in abundance
3. Stop feeding your ego. Don’t isolate yourself from reality by building relationships with people who stroke your ego. Surrounding yourself with “yes people” is just like talking to yourself.
4. Compete against yourself. When you compete against others, it’s easy to emphasize winning over self-improvement. However, when you compete against yourself, you both win.
5. Even experts have room to learn. Never stop growing. Know your limitations and admit when you don’t know something. It’ll help to keep you grounded.
6. Listen up. Discover what others have to offer and ask for their opinions before opening your mouth. It shows that you value their opinions as well as their insight.
7. No one’s perfect. Don’t let success go to your head. Be quick to apologize for your mistakes. You’ll never learn anything or impress anyone by making excuses and diverting blame. And a little humility will remind you that you’re human.
8. Share your success. You may be successful, but there’s a good chance others helped you along the way. Find creative ways to share the credit and pull people up the ladder of success along with you.
9. Remember your roots. Remember where you came from and what you’ve learned along the way. Help others by mentoring them.
10. Get off your high horse. Treat everyone with dignity and respect. You may be successful, but that doesn’t make you better than anyone else.
11. Bragging is ugly. There’s a difference between excitement and bragging. We know you’re thrilled about your new “toy,” but others may be cutting back on their basic needs — be sensitive. As John Wooden said, “Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.”
12. Money and success can’t buy a person’s trust or guarantee a good reputation. You earn these through your words AND actions. There’s nothing more valuable in life than integrity. Trust me.
13. Be quick to forgive (Matthew 18: 21-35). Forgiveness is possibly one of the greatest acts of humility we can do. To forgive is to acknowledge a wrong that has been done us and also to further release our right of repayment for the wrong. Forgiveness is denial of self. Forgiveness is not insisting on our way and our justice.
14. Purpose to speak well of others (Ephesians 4:31-32). Saying negative things about others puts them “one down” and us “one up.” Speaking well of others edifies them and builds them up. Make sure, however, that what you say is not intended as flattery.
15. Purposely associate with people of a lower state than you (Luke 7:36-39). Jesus was derided by the Pharisees for socializing with the poor and those of lowly state. Our culture is very status conscious and people naturally want to socialize upward. Resist the temptation of being partial to those with status or wealth.
16. Choose to serve others (Philippians 1:1, 2 Corinthians 4:5, Matthew 23:11). When we serve others, we are serving God’s purposes in their lives. Doing so reduces our focus on ourselves and builds the Kingdom of God. When serving another costs us nothing, we should, question whether it is really servanthood.
This year World Mission Sunday will be celebrated on 23 October. This special day is an opportunity for Catholics worldwide to join together to pray for the missionary work of our Church and to give what we can to missionaries and churches overseas that need our help. This annual celebration reminds us that we are one with the Church around the world and that we are all committed to carrying on the mission of Christ, however different our situations may be. The World Mission Sunday Collection helps to support young and poor churches overseas.
Fr. Gaspar Fernandes, OFM Cap.