Wednesday, August 24, 2016

August 28, 2016 - I Am Meek and Humble of Heart

The 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C    

 Reading I: Sirach 3 17-18, 20,28-29          Response: Psalm 68
 Reading II:  Hebrews 12: 18-19, 22-24a   Gospel: Luke 14: 1, 7-14

In our first reading from Sirach, we hear the advice: “My child, 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.”

In the Gospel, Jesus tells the parable of the guest who has been invited to a wedding banquet. The guest chooses a place of honor and has to be told to move when a more distinguished person arrives.

In the introduction to the Gospel, we hear: “Take my yoke upon you, says the Lord, and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.” [A yoke is a device used to enable two animals to share the weight of a burden they are pulling and to do it in unison.]  Jesus does not ask us to do anything by ourselves, but rather to walk side by side, in unison with him as we journey
through life.

I have heard it said that our pride dies 10 minutes after we die. Sometimes we are tempted to act humble, but it is just another way of camouflaging our pride. We find true humility very difficult. Eleanor Stump, a professor of philosophy at Saint Luis University, notes four types of pride:

  • There is the childish kind of pride, of course, where you brag about your accomplishments while everybody else tries to be polite enough not to roll their eyes while you are talking.
  • And then there is also the grown-up version of that childish pride.  A multi-millionaire who explains that he is a self- made man has this kind of pride.  He has failed to notice all the gifts he has been given that have helped him to get where he is. He thinks he himself is responsible for the good he has.

  • A more complicated kind of pride can be found in a person who knows that all his good comes from the grace of God. But he is sure that God has given him such grace and not his neighbors, because God knew that he, unlike his stupid worldly neighbors, would make good use of God’s gifts.

  • Finally, the worst and most sophisticated kind of pride is found in the Pharisee who thanked God that he was not like other men, especially not like that sinner, the publican. The Pharisee knew that every good in him was a gift from God. But he was glad that he had God's gifts and that the publican didn’t. 

The Pharisee liked looking down on the publican.Humility is simple truth. We acknowledge that all our virtue and talents come from God and that they are meant to be used for the good of others. We also acknowledge that God has gifted others and we appreciate and rejoice over those gifts.

For  twelve years I taught in Aquinas Junior College where most of the students were preparing to be secretaries, medical assistants, or early childhood educators. Some had poor self images when they came. We used to emphasize with them that God must have a special love for the ordinary people because he made so many of us. The world only needs a few opera singers, violinists, scientists, professional athletes, artists, mechanics, or other specially talented people. However,  it needs many, many people with the ordinary gifts of caring, kindness, helpfulness, and generosity.

I had a friend with serious eye problems. Her doctor was a genius who was often consulted by other doctors because of his expertise. However, he did not have a great personality. Nevertheless, he was smart enough to recognize that he needed the gifts a warm-hearted secretary to make his practice successful. The secretary he hired was a real people-person. She knew everyone's name and asked about their families. She would greet each patient as if he or she were the important person in the world. Yes, the doctor's gifts were important. but the secretary's gifts were no less important.

In our Early Childhood Education Department, we had some students who had found school difficult. However,  they had the personalities and patience needed to relate well to young children during their most  impressionable years. What comfort it brought to parents when they recognized those special gifts in the teachers of their precious children.

Each one of us is unique and gifted by God in a special way. We need to be grateful and share our gifts with others. It is pure foolishness for us to attribute our virtues or accomplishments only to ourselves. We need to keep our eyes on the humble Jesus who asks us to “learn to of him to be "meek and humble of heart.”

As a human and a devout Jew, Jesus was well-versed in the Hebrew Scriptures [Old Testament]. He followed well the instructions of the prophet Micah: “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  He asks us to do the same.


  1. This attractive and inspiring image of Our Lord, with his arms significantly extended as in welcome, seems to indicate an invitation to all mankind. Jesus wants every one of us to respond to his amazing and infinite love, in the hope of dwelling with him for all eternity, anticipating the indescribable bliss of heaven.

    The liturgy for this Sunday reminds us of the importance of practicing the virtue of humility, as we strive to be as pleasing as possible to our Creator. The First Reading, from Sirach 3:17-18
    suggests that we conduct our affairs with humility and also humble ourselves the more, the greater we are. The Alleluia verse advises: "Take my yoke upon you," says the Lord,", "and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart." (Matthew 11:29ab)


    The following quotations are from the writings of
    St. Katharine Drexel:

    "Humility is a help to acquire the perfection of every virtue; in fact, there is no virtue without it."

    "Be humble, since whatever you are and whatever you have and whatever do for yourself and others proceeds from a pure act of God's mercy and the assistance of his grace."

    Abhor ostentation; preserve the doctrine of Christ. Suffer in silence.

    1. Thank you, Sister, for reminding us of St. Katharine's words about humility.

  2. When I hear “Take my yoke upon you…” I get the sense that Jesus is asking us not only to remember that He is carrying our burdens along with us, but also that we ought to be willing to carry the yoke for another when they are weighed down by life’s problems. Decades ago when I found myself as a single parent of an infant two women whom I barely knew stepped into my life and offered tremendous moral support as well as some much needed child care relief. My relationship with these two women continues today (26+ years later). They are true friends and absolute blessings in my life. They helped me carry my yoke and life was filled with hope and connection.
    I love how you summed up humility, “humility is simply truth.” I have found that life is so much sweeter when we can celebrate and value the gifts of others. Acknowledging another person’s talents does not diminish us (as our ego would have us believe). Rather, such recognition opens us to the abundance of life and may even motivate us to search for our gifts if we are feeling that we don’t have any. I have been in this place mainly because I have been caring for family all my life doing what needs to be done in each and every moment. Taking the time to reflect on my gifts feels scary because I have always identified myself in relation to others. As my caretaking responsibilities continue I might just find my gifts hidden in the very activities required to satisfy the needs of others. I recognized myself in your comments about ordinary people bearing ordinary gifts which contribute to extraordinary results. Thank you for taking the time to remind us of the importance of the everyday qualities of nurturing and communicating from the heart.
    The instruction of Jesus that also touched me in this week’s gospel was that of the invitation list for the meal – suggesting that the host not invite those whom he knows and loves (who are likely to, in turn, invite him to a meal they are hosting), but rather to invite the poor and infirmed. The latter guests would not be able to repay the host - but the Lord will repay him on their behalf at “the resurrection of the righteous.” Meaning, of course, that our repayment is spiritual. It is the joy, peace and love of God that we yearn for that the poor give us, not only in the afterlife but in the here and now.
    I thought of Katharine Drexel’s mother who opened up the family house three times every week to feed and care for the poor. Her loving gestures continue this day through the mission of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament as founded by St. Katharine Drexel.
    For many years my son and I volunteered at St. Francis Inn, a soup kitchen in the poorest section of Philadelphia. Those years of service gave us significant insight into the plight of the poor – not only those financially disadvantaged but those who were spiritually bankrupt and desperately needing spiritual nourishment as well as the physical sustenance the meal provided.
    Henri Nouwen asks the question, “What is my poverty?” “Is it lack of money, lack of emotional stability, lack of a loving partner, lack of security, lack of safety, lack of self-confidence? Each human being has a place of poverty. That’s the place where God wants to dwell! “ Jesus tells us, “How blessed are the poor.”
    Nouwen writes that our blessing is hidden in our poverty. “We are so inclined to cover up our poverty and ignore it that we often miss the opportunity to discover God, who dwells in it. Let’s dare to see our poverty as the land where our treasure is hidden.” The Christ who lives in our own poverty recognizes the Christ who lives in other people’s poverty.
    I’ll close with a quote from Mother Teresa: “Seek the face of God in everything, in everyone, all the time, especially in the lowly appearance of bread and in the distressing disguise of the poor.”
    May all of the readers of this blog be blessed with a wonderful week!

    1. Dear Pat,ASBS, your reflections are very inspirational.

  3. Beautifully stated. I am so grateful and thank you Sister and God for sharing these writings with others.