A Humble Person Cannot Be Humiliated (Revised)
22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

Humility ...what does it mean to you? Do you admire it or do you tend to scorn it? Be honest with yourself. Do you perceive the humble person as being strong or weak? Frankly, would you look for humility in a prospective sales person, foreman, drill sergeant, CEO or trial lawyer?

As far as the Sacred Scriptures of our Judean-Christian tradition are concerned, there is no question at all. Humility is presented as a virtue, as an ideal for every last one of us.

Humility is not to be confused with a lack of initiative, a lack of forcefulness or combativeness. Humility is not a weakness. The author of Sirach (Ch.3, 17-29) taught that humility is one of the hallmarks of the wise person, of one who is truly in tune with reality. He tells us that humility is the key to being loved and esteemed by others, not to mention to being pleasing to God

In the Gospel,(Luke 14, 7-14) Jesus makes the same point. The context is interesting. We are given a glimpse of the goings on at a typical first century banquet. There are very strict rules about who can be invited, where one eats, when one eats and what one eats. At a banquet such as the one described by Luke, and being a physician, he probably went to quite a few, you would be assigned a seat indicating your perceived relative ranking. The closer to the host the higher your position.

Remember that Jesus lived in a culture wherein a person's social position was of paramount importance. Nothing mattered more than being treated with deference. And so at a formal event hosted by a prominent person it was not unusual to see people of like rank openly vying for the most prestigious places.

Jesus, by word and example challenged these perspectives and values, many of which you will have recognized as being common to our own society. Salvation, Jesus tells us, does not come from proud and splendid isolation but rather from humbly reaching out to all of God's children. Likewise, real honour does come to one as a result of self-serving, proud machinations but rather from humbly accepting that which is freely bestowed by another.

No truly honourable person seeks to be honoured and, in passing, it is worth noting that the truly humble person cannot be humiliated.

God's richest blessings are reserved for those who seek His honour and glory above their own. If temporal honours, awards or praise are bestowed, they are to be accepted with dignity but always, always with a clear awareness of one's nothingness apart from God. Not easy! But that awareness is the core of humility.

No wonder that in the mind of the author of the book of Sirach, humility is so closely linked to wisdom and remains the mark of all men and women who can be said to be truly worthy of honour.

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