By Deacon Jerry Franzen – Cathedral – August 29, 2010
Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29 Hebrews12:18-19, 22-24a Luke 14:1, 7-14
For each Sunday,
the first reading and the Gospel are somehow connected.
It is said that listening to the first reading should prepare us
to hear the message of the Gospel reading.
These readings for today are exemplary of this trait.
The first reading told us:“Humble yourself the more, the greater you are,
and you will find favor with God.”
You can be great and humble at the same time.
And in the Gospel we heard Jesus’ words:
“Everyone who humbles himself will be exalted”
If you are humble you will be lifted up;
you can be humble and have your spirits lifted too.
So today we are to hear God’s message on humility.
As I was preparing this homily, an item from my youth ministry days came to mind.
At our meetings with the high school youth,
we always had a time for praise and worship,
a time for a mixture of charismatic prayer and song.
One of the popular items we sang was called
“Humble Thyself”. It was short and to the point.
The words are:
“Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord,
Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord,
and He, and He,
will lift, will lift
you up higher and higher.
And He, and He,
will lift, will lift you up.”
that was repeated that several times in succession.
If you want to hear it sung you can find it on “You Tube,”
Singing that simple mantra always put me in a very prayerful mood.
It has also helped to make me more comfortable with the concept of humility.
Not all are comfortable with this word.
One might suspect that there is something phony about it,
striking a pose, pretending to be less than we consider ourselves to be.
Jesus was telling those who sought the higher places,
those who fancied themselves better than the rest and took the higher seats
to be careful that they might be put in their place,in a lower seat.
And it might seem that Jesus was telling the guests that,
if they really wanted to look good,they should take the lower seats,
so they COULD look good by being asked to move up.
But by all of this,
Jesus was actually making fun of the whole process of snobbery
that determined who sat where.
He was pointing out the two possibilities for error:
either make a mistake by thinking too highly of oneself
and taking a seat too high,
OR by thinking too lowly of oneself and taking a seat too low.
It was a no win situation of trying to figure out where one should sit.
Jesus’ comment of
“You know you might just be better off if you underestimated your place”
was not a direction for the guests to underestimate their places,
but a way for Jesus to make light of the whole
“who is better than whom” thing.
He was saying
“If you want to play this silly game of being ranked
and then seating by status,
you might play it safe and underestimate your status.
At least you won’t be embarrassed.”
Notice also Jesus’ tongue-in-cheek comment,
“Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table.
Like that would be important. Right!
It was a silly game.
Do you think that Jesus cared where he sat
or was concerned about the esteem of the others at the table?
This whole business of how we rank ourselves,
how we see ourselves is the root of the problem of understanding humility.
Humility is not tied up in how we see ourselves
and how we then portray ourselves.
Humility is all tied up in what God sees in us -
how our lives play out in God’s eyes.
Remember the first line of the youth meeting song:
“Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord.”
In the sight of the Lord.
Certainly humility is not trying to inflate our image,
trying to make ourselves seem to be better than we actually are,
always seeking the best seats at the table, so to speak.
But what Jesus also wanted us to understand is that
humility is not the other extreme either.
It is also not always being subservient to others,
not always acting in a subdued manner.
It is not always being glum and never accepting a compliment
and portraying an image of ourselves as having low self esteem.
That is not humility either.
Being humble is not foregoing your own achievements
and always doing the wishes of others.
In this parable,
Jesus didn't condemn the desire to do and achieve great things.
He actually encouraged his host to seek a reward:
"... the one who humbles himself will be exalted...
For you will be repaid at the resurrection..."
Humility is a matter of being just who you should be
using the gifts that God has given you.
Being humble means having the only solid
and lasting foundation for real self-esteem that we can have:
knowledge that our lives and our happiness are gifts
from a God who knows us through and through and loves us unconditionally.
If we base our self-esteem on anything else –
such as our own achievements or other people's praise –
sooner or later our self esteem will collapse.
Humility is all about having a realistic image of ourselves,
just as Jesus had a realistic image of himself.
Was he humble? Most certainly!
Was he always subdued, subservient and glum
and acting like he had no self esteem? Definitely not!
It’s not about how we might unrealistically see ourselves;
It is about how God sees us in accordance with the gifts he has given to us.
It’s all about who we are and what we are as God has made us.
If we recognize that all the gifts we have are from God,
that God is responsible for all that we can do
and that these gifts are not of our own doing,
then we can’t very well be thinking
that we deserve a particular place or rank.
True humility rests in what we do with what we have been given.
This is what God wants to see in each of us.
SO, if we understand that God has been so good to us
to give us the most precious gifts he has given to us,
then we really cannot be glum, walking around like a “zombie”
with a “Woe is me.” attitude
and trying to convince others and ourselves
that we have no place or only the lowest place at the banquet.
Once again, that is not humility.
Truly humble persons see themselves as God sees them:
1.They recognize that they can do nothing without God’s gracious gifts,
2.They know that they each have been each abundantly gifted by God,
3.These gifts are cause for great joy within them and
4.They use their gifts to glorify God, for their own salvation
and in service to their brothers and sisters.