Written on: August 30, 2019
There is an old cowboy song that laments: “Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble.”
The first reading this Sunday is from the Book of Sirach, which emphasizes that “all wisdom comes from the Lord”. The teacher, Jesus Ben Sira, is imparting to his students the virtues that make up wisdom and in this lesson, the virtue of humility. Proverbs 11:2 states that
“When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
but with humility comes wisdom”.
Throughout history many have imagined that it was important to be the best, the most honored, most popular; rich in possessions and wealth. The house, the vacation, the car or boat “makes the person.” Humility is not part of the equation.
To be humble is to be poor, 3rd class, the panhandler on the street, the homeless under the bridge, the immigrant at the border. Shame and humility go hand in hand. The definition of humility is
“freedom from pride or arrogance: the quality of state of being humble.”
Many years ago, I was taught that humility is truth. Truth is a part of wisdom. When we are humble, we are “real”, we acknowledge ourselves as we are.
Jesus, in his parable, observes the behavior of “one-upmanship” exhibited by the banquet guests. It was common behavior in His time, as well as ours. It is human nature to enjoy being honored and recognized. Don’t we work hard to earn this honor and recognition?
But Jesus is saying, “Is that what it is all about? Do you think that that is all that is necessary to be with me for all of eternity?” But it is hard to divest oneself from all of this need for recognition and applause. I do believe that Jesus is okay with our achieving and excelling in the gifts and talents that He has given to us. Humility lets us recognize that these are gifts – not entitlements – and that they should be used wisely. Humility lets us take that front row seat when it is offered to us and we can enjoy the moment. Humility does not have to be a negative.
Humility allows us to give, without expecting that we will receive anything back. Jesus tells the guests that the next time they have a dinner party, they should invite the “poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.” You won’t get any bottles of wine for it, but you will be “repaid” at the Resurrection of the righteous.
You have to let go to be humble.
The military has a code of “no man left behind.” In the Navy, officers eat first, have the best food, the best quarters to live in. Enlisted come second. However, in time of combat or need, it makes no difference what rank you are. The highest ranking officer will go into a situation to rescue, to bring back the lowest enlisted man. Arrogance and pride are put aside.
In El Paso last week, a U.S. Border Patrol Colonel went into the Walmart, unarmed, and rescued a victim, who was badly injured trying to save his mother. She brought him out, thus saving his life. Any existing pride or arrogance was left at the door of that Walmart. “Blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.”
Lord, give me the wisdom of humility, not to expect payment. But, “Lord, it’s hard to be humble!”
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