Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (C), September 1, 2013 – Sir 3, 17-18. 20. 28-29; Heb 12, 18-19. 22-24a; Lk 14, 1. 7-14
Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart (Mt 11, 29)
By all accounts, Pope Francis attracts Catholics and non-Catholics. This points to something we already know by experience, namely: simplicity, plainness and humility please, while pomposity, ostentation and pride displease.
Availing of the same accumulated human experience and of his own personal experience, Jesus teaches that “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Though addressed to everyone, the teaching is particularly for careerists in search of opportunities, not to teach, but rather to get for themselves the first places and even to spy on and ruin rivals, real or imagined, who may hinder them from realizing their ambitions.
Jesus basically reminds them of the wisdom that it is in one’s best interests to conduct one’s affairs with humility and to humble oneself all the more, the greater one is in the eyes of men. He is of wise judgment, the one who does not deem himself deserving of a higher position, yet soon receives a promotion. He foolishly miscalculates, on the other hand, the presumptuous individual who thoughtlessly just occupies a prominent seat only to have to give it up in shame later.
But the Christian teaching goes beyond utilitarianism. Jesus teaches extreme humility, one that is disinterested. It is the humility of the person who invites with affection the poor who are unable to reciprocate. It is the humility he himself exemplifies.
Jesus reaches out to us and saves us, without our having any means to repay him duly. If we could repay, then we would have reason to boast and salvation would not be grace.
And such is the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that, although rich, he becomes poor to make us rich by his poverty. He also becomes a curse for us to ransom us from it and is made to be sin, so that we may become the righteousness of God. Indeed, humility to the extreme is personified in the one who does not regard equality with God something to be grasped, rather he empties himself, takes the form of a slave, and becomes obedient to death.
Like Jesus, we will put our complete trust in God. We will hope only in him to recompense us freely. It will be enough for us that we are known above all as his children, and not so much as Americans, Filipinos, Mexicans, Panamanians, Peruvians, Salvadorans or Spaniards, or as residents of Beverly Hills, Forbes Park (where mendicant friars have their Santuario de San Antonio), Lomas de Sotelo, Costa del Este, La Molina, Escalón or La Moraleja.
And we will not deviate from Jesus. We will not be preoccupied “with certain pastoral ‘quaestiones disputatae’” of “enlightened Catholics” (Pope Francis); we will not busy ourselves with empty theoretical questions so removed from daily life. Rather, we will be tangible examples from real life of apprenticeship and solidarity with Jesus, as we associate with the lowly, denouncing prideful and destructive divisions and resisting clericalism (“Tell me your friends …”; Pope Francis). Following St. Vincent de Paul, we will take the worst for ourselves and will always want to be last, and we will not go looking to be praised nor will we insist on making it known that we are the bosses (Coste IX, 605; XI, 346).
We will let no less than the mediator of the new covenant to challenge us. We will make present again his humility and we will imitate him, faithful to his instruction: “Do this in memory of me”; “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”
Ross Reyes Dizon
[Thanks to John B. Freund for the help with the reflection’s heading. –Ross]