On this Sunday, the Word of God invites us to reflect on the disastrous consequences of pride and the preciousness of humility. Pride was what cast Lucifer into hell. Pride and ambition is what brought Adam and Eve to disobey God, as a consequence of which they were driven out of the Garden of Eden.
Pride has caused so much suffering to so many millions of human beings along the centuries. Its opposite – HUMILITY – brings joy, peace, and encouragement to all. Humble people readily acknowledge that all the good qualities they have are gifts from God and that every success has its origin and support in Him.
In this Eucharistic celebration let us ask for the grace to be truly humble. This will enable us to be GENEROUS and thereby become a source of happiness for so many of our brothers and sisters.
On a Sabbath Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully. He told a parable to those who had been invited, noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table.
“When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor. A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him,and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place. Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you, he may say, ‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’ Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Then he said to the host who invited him, “When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind. Blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
A literal and superficial interpretation of the conclusion of the first part of today’s Gospel passage can be misleading. It sounds as if one should choose the lowest place in order to be invited to move higher, right in front of everybody. (See Lk 14:10.) Such an intention/attitude could hardly be called humility. Nor can this form of subtle hypocrisy be what Jesus is trying to teach his fellow guests and us.
This section should not be understood as suggesting a wrong intention in the one who chooses the lowest place; rather it states a fact – how God (the Host) will treat those who in this life have treasured humility. He will exalt them, even as He will clamp down those who have proudly exalted themselves. (See v. 11. See also Mary’s Canticle, Lk 1:52.) All this amounts to an exaltation of God’s justice and fairness. He promises a reward to all those who deserve it, even as He threatens punishment to the unworthy.
And rightly so, for there is nothing more revolting than pride, and nothing more pleasing than genuine humility. While pride is the ultimate root of all sins and vices, humility is the mother of all virtues. Quite simply, these are the two fundamental opposite attitudes which will determine our eternal destiny.
Contrary to all appearances, pride is the manifestation of a terrible spiritual poverty and blindness. For all his self-sufficiency, a proud person needs others against whom to measure himself and feel that he is stronger, richer, prettier, more intelligent, more powerful, more everything! In their moral blindness, proud people refuse to recognize that all the good qualities and assets they possess are gifts from the Lord.
Deeply envious of the qualities or success of others, they deny them or attribute them to wrong intentions or dealings. Proud people feel a devouring need to display their trophies and achievements. They absolutely refuse even to contemplate the possibility of failing, but all the while they keep nose-diving into their final, irreparable failure – hell!
Diametrically opposite to such spiritual misery and self-destructive attitude towers humility, the sign and fruit of a wonderful spiritual richness. Humble persons see themselves and others as gifts. They readily acknowledge this truth, and joyfully thank the Donor. Mary is the most stupendous example of such humility. (See the “Magnificat,” especially Lk 1:46-49.)
Happy in receiving with gratitude, and happier still in giving without expecting thanks or reward, humble people readily rejoice in the good qualities or successes of their neighbor. They see no place, no occupation as being too low for them, while considering all others worthier than themselves.
Humble people see themselves as having the mission to be helpful to others, and continuously try their best to accomplish such mission. They can be defined as “people for others.” When they fail, they never feel humiliated, for even the most bitter failure is for them a stepping stone toward the final success – heaven!
Jesus Christ, the greatest of all, was also the most humble of all. He is the champion of all the humble. All his life (including his death) was the clearest example of what a humble person should be and do.