Ordinary Time 22, Year C-2010

From Vincentian Encyclopedia
He sets up on high the lowly (Job 5:11)

The Lord, we are taught, resists the proud and gives grace to the humble (Prov. 3:34; Jas. 4:6; 1 Pt. 5:5). Most human beings, too, as St. Vincent de Paul himself noted, are attracted by humility [1]. Hence, by and large, we find the presumptuous offensive and the unassuming likeable. Not infrequently, we snicker and mutter to ourselves, “Serves you right,” when a presumptuous person is demoted or taken for granted, and we nod in agreement and delight when someone so unassuming is promoted or recognized.

These practical or utilitarian considerations alone should make me pay serious attention to Ben Sira’s advice on humility and Jesus’ warning about taking the places of honor. It is in my own best interest to be humble, for that matter, to be virtuous, even if it only means being saved from embarrassment and not having my honor tarnished in the slightest way.

But as a Christian I cannot settle for mere self-interest no matter how enlightened and legitimate. In the first place, the revelation Christians are graced with points to the other, not the self, as the main focus: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind; ... You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt. 22:37, 39; Mk. 12:30-31; Lk. 10:27). In the second place, Christians are the follower of Jesus, the supreme revealer of the Father and the image of the invisible God and God’s definitive word to human beings (Jn. 14:8-12; Mt. 5:16-18; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:1). And it is as crucified that he is proclaimed and as lifted up from the earth that he draws everyone to himself (1 Cor. 1:23; 2:2; Jn. 12:32). Mocked and abused on the cross, yet forgiving his enemies and finding an excuse for them, Jesus is revealed as the truly meek and humble of heart from whom his followers are to learn, and he elicits from soldiers watching over him confession of his divinity and innocence (Mt. 11:29;27:54; Lk. 23:34, 47). Consequently, all followers of Jesus are challenged—in view of his startling self-emptying, humility and obedience to death—to do nothing out selfish ambition, but in humility to consider others better than themselves, looking not only to their interests but also to the interests of others (Phil. 2:3-11).

Christians, in other words, are to clothe themselves with the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Rom. 13:14). He did not only talk the talk of “Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God.” More importantly, he did walk the walk and revealed himself—to the consternation of the rulers of the Gentiles who lord it over their subjects—as the greatest who was everyone’s servant, as the first who was everyone’s slave, the Son of Man who did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mk. 10:43-45) [2]. And having the same attitude as that of Jesus Christ, we Christians will see that, in Jesus, humility is revelation, or as St. Teresa of Ávila has it, “humility is truth, for it is most true that we have nothing good of ourselves but only misery and nothingness: whoever ignores this, lives a life of falsehood” [3]. As we walk the same highway of humility—of realistic recognition of humanity’s utter sinfulness and desperate need for God, who reserves to himself the right to award places of honor—that Jesus walked on our behalf, made that he was to be sin and a curse for us, we soon discover that it leads to Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the Supreme Truth (2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13) [4].

If indeed in today’s collect prayer we acknowledge that every good thing comes from almighty God, and by eating the body and drinking the cup of the Lord we proclaim Jesus’ humiliation and death, then surely, we have every reason to wait in joyful hope for the coming in glory of our humiliated and crucified Savior. We also believe, of course, that we honor now Christ’s body, as St. John Chrysostom points out, by not scorning his nakedness, his lowliness, in the least of his brothers and sisters, the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind [5].


Endnotes:

[1] P. Coste, XII, 197.
[2] On how a bishop serves, cf. the address of Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., at his ordination Mass, http://www.trentonmonitor.com/main.asp?SectionID=4&subsectionID=36&articleID=1203 (accessed August 26, 2010).
[3] The Interior Castle, The Sixth Mansions, Chapter X, 6, http://www.interior-castle.com/?page_id=16 (accessed August 26, 2010). On Vincentian perspectives on humility, cf. Robert P. Maloney, C.M., The Way of Vincent de Paul (Brooklyn, NY.: New City Press, 1992) 40-41, 57-60.
[4] Cf. “Know the Time: Israel Turns Away but Blessing Still Comes,” http://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT/Luke/Know-Time-Israel-Turns-Away (accessed August 26, 2010).
[5] Cf. The non-biblical reading in the Office of Readings, Liturgy of the Hours, for Saturday of the Twenty-First Week in Ordinary Time.