Homily 22nd Sunday Year C: Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Sir 3:17-18, 20, 28-29; Ps 68:4-7, 10-11’ Heb 12:18-19, 22-24a and Luke 14:1, 7-14
Learn From Me For I am Meek and Humble of Heart
“For everyone who exalts himself (or herself) will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted,” (Luke 14:11).These words of Jesus underline the common thread of call for humility that runs through the Bible Lessons of today.
Even the author of Ecclesiasticus, Ben Sira, a wise man, lover of God, and an experienced observer of life, who lived thousands of years ago in Jerusalem recommended humility for his contemporaries. He says “my child, conduct your affairs with humility and you will be loved more than a giver of gift. And the more you humble yourself, the greater you are, and the more you find favor with God,” (Sir 17-18). For Ben Sira, humility is not different from the fear of the Lord; it is not different from modesty and meekness. In fact most often the Hebrew word anawa can also be used in the sense of modesty and meekness of life.
In fact arrogance, especially a bad type can lead to so many things. It can lead us to disregard God and things that are sacred. It leads us to commit injustices, loose our patience very easily, disrespect others or trample upon those we think and imagine, are weaker than us, or we are better than! This why in Zephaniah 2:3, the text I wrote my doctoral dissertation on, humility is parallel to acts of social justice, righteousness and obedience to God. The texts says, “seek the Lord (baqqash adonay), all you humble of the land (kol anawa ha-arrets), who observed the law, seek righteousness (baqqash saddiq), and seek humility ( baqqash anawa).
In other words, Ben Sira recommends that in our daily lives we should cultivates the virtues of patience, modesty docility, meekness, awareness of one’s limitations, respect for one another, love of one another, and above all we should always rely upon the grace of God, no matter our gifts , education, talents and positions. One who possesses humility is greater than “the giver of gifts.”
There is a story of a poor beggar who sits out in a village street in some parts of Africa, asking passers-by for bread and gifts.. In this culture, gifts are often given and received with right hands. One day a very rich man who was returning from the market walked by this hungry poor beggar. He offered the beggar a fat loaf of bread with money equivalent to our one dollar bill. But he did this with his left which is a sign of disrespect to another human being in this culture. To the greatest shock of this arrogant rich man, the poor hungry beggar rejected his gifts. But was kind enough to instruct the rich man to offer him the gifts properly with his right hand! The point here is that it is humility that enables us to respect the dignity of every human person, poor, rich, men, women and children, and even to be aware of ourselves or at least remember to look at ourselves on the mirror.
Humility enables us to love our neighbors. Think of the humility of love that Christ has first humbly loved us with. He washed the feet of his disciples. He reached out to the unreachables and touched the untouchables. Even to the cross as a mediator of the new covenant, the blood of Christ, as stated in the second reading (Heb 12:18-19, 22-24a), “Speaks more eloquently than that of Abel.” Christ went to Cross freely. He went the Cross humbly like a lamb. He went there because he loves us.
Even before Christ went to the cross, he taught humility, modesty, charity, generosity and respect to the dignity of every human person, wherever, and when he had the opportunity to do so. The parable at the dinner party in today’s Gospel (Luke 14:1, 7-14) is one of those occasions. It was in the home of one of the Pharisees, elite of his time and probably a very wealthy man too. Jesus uses this occasions not to “play nice,” or “lobby” the Pharisees, but to instruct everyone of the truth: that when you are invited to a party take the lowest place so that you might be elevated and not vise verse. Again, those who organize theses parties should always extend their invitation and generosity to others including the poor, the crippled, the lame, the beggars, and the blind.
This might sound very difficult to understand in today’s world of unhealthy competitions and rivalries, segregation, discrimination, racism and marginalization of the weak. Today many of us do things expecting a pay back in return. How do I invite strangers to my home would be the questions, modern minds would ask?
An arrogant, me-first lifestyle, my story, my story, my story always, (not my neighbors’ story) is not a life style of the kingdom of God. True members of the kingdom must take their yoke upon them and be able to learn from Christ, who is meek and humble of heart( Matt 11:29ab), “for every one who exalts himself (herself) will be humbled, and the ones who humble themselves will be exalted,”(Luke 14:11).