We all remember the country and Western song : ‘O Lord it’s so hard to be humble, when you’re perfect in every way!’
Today’s readings remind of us the importance of humility in all things, and especially in our attitude towards God and others. I remember once entering a clerical setting, asking if a seat was taken, being quoted the line from a now deceased bishop (of another diocese): ‘We’re all equal here, form me right down to you’. Even in clerical circles, places of seniority are still important to some.
The place settings at weddings are fraught with meticulous planning and seating arrangements carefully stage managed so that people can get along. So it less likely that the scenario in the Gospel might emerge.
Pope Francis is a great example of humility and consistently amazes us at is simplicity and his humility, in paying the hotel bill where he had stayed in the conclave, after becoming Pope, living in humbler accommodation, in bowing his head and asking for OUR prayers and blessing before he blessed us after his election, in his insistence on simpler and humbler living for the clergy, in preparing his own meals and rarely if ever eating out as a Cardinal, in riding in the bus with the other cardinals after his election. He is a messenger from God in this setting of an example in our times.
St Therese, the Little Flower, said that ‘Humility is truth and the truth, humility.’
It is in other words the whole unvarnished truth about oneself, with warts and imperfections, but also with unique strengths, gifts, talents and abilities that are unique, irreplaceable and ready to be used and perfected and perhaps even with some waiting to be discovered. We are called to be the best version of ourselves.
Another definition of humility is ‘not to think less of ourselves, but to think of ourselves less.’ Not to be the centre of attention or looking for it when others have it. Also to give greater consideration to others’ feelings than our own in a given social situation.
It is recognising that we do have God-given talents, and when successful with them to always remember precisely that, they are given by God to be used and harnessed for the good of others and so that God may get some if not all of the glory!
We all love the thrill of attention, fame, celebrity and renown, but we can fall into its addictive nature or instead we find the attention rather embarrassing. We see how personalities and celebrities seek notice in outrageous ways, and there is some truth in the Hollywood maxim, that ‘there is only one thing worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about!’
We must be careful with success and remember that it is precarious and temporary. When Roman generals returned in triumph from battle they rode in a single chariot, were accompanied by a slave who held the wreath of victory over their heads, but who also whispered amidst the adulation of the cheering crowds ‘remember you are but a man’.
The greatest example of humility is our Lord Himself: ‘Christ emptied himself...Christ was humbler yet, even to the point of accepting death, death on a cross.’
And it is the way of the cross that we too must follow, but choosing and accepting apparent failure and weakness in worldly terms that comes from self-denial, accepting and living out our duties and accepting the crosses, trials and disappointments in life in ‘this valley of tears’ leads ultimately to eternal success.
‘Those who humble themselves will be exalted.’