First Reading: Sir 3:17-20.28-29; Psalm: 68. R. v.11b; Second Reading: Heb 12:18-19.22-24a; Gospel: Lk 14:1.7-14
THE SERENITY OF HUMILITY
BY FR VALENTINE NNAMDI EGBUONU, MSP
There are certain people who feel they are not where they deserve to be in life at the moment. It is not because they mismanaged and rued their chances in life or because they were lazy. But because they have acquired all it takes through hard work to be where they want to be, yet the opportunities are not opening up. In most cases, when we have a rich academic profile, we expect to be at a certain level or position in a group or in the society; a position that equals our standard of achievements or even above it. But in reality, we have come to see that the events of life often defy this logic. We don’t always get what we feel we deserve. Some people today still face this crisis of the imbalance between these two chances of life.
What Jesus entreats us to do today is to acknowledge who we are and to take our rightful place accordingly while we wait on God to place us we deserve. Most people see age, experience, academic achievements, and popularity as the determinant factor of who they are. They feel that what they have become or achieved in life defines them. They value their achievements and qualifications over their humanness and want it to influence the decisions concerning them. But they forget that they would not have acquired those fortuitous qualifications and achievements had God not given them the chance to.
Jesus wants us to acknowledge our rightful place. And to acknowledge our rightful place is to accept who we are. And to accept who we are is to realise our nothingness. To realise we were nothing but the dust of the earth before we received the breathe of life from God and every other thing God provided. So we actually deserve nothing because we do not merit anything. Invariably, when we come to this point, we should be humble; for to be humble is to accept our nothingness. Little wonder the word “humility” is coined from the Latin word “humilitas”, a word derived from “humus” meaning “earth”.
Humility is accepting who we are. Accepting that we are nothing if not for God. And that all that we have achieved are a gift from God which in reality does not define us. Humility also demands that we accept that there are things we cannot change. Things we should accept if we want to be happy.
Some priests and religious today are sad because they feel they are not where they deserve to be. They feel that with their PhD’s and various degrees and having come of age in the priesthood and religious life they deserve certain positions or to work in certain missions or parishes. They feel so embittered seeing a younger priest/religious in missions or parishes they dream to be. This has led to resentment and casting of aspersion. Certain young priests also feel they are mature enough to run a parish after few years in the priesthood. What their Bishops or Superiors think is not important but what they feel. And if this is not forthcoming, they become frustrated and begin to register their displeasure through indirect protest in their places of assignment. The moment we set our happiness on the things we cannot directly change, we will never be happy.
Sometimes those places or positions we are fighting for could jeopardise our vocation. We need to trust in God who alone humbles and exalts. Even when we feel our Bishops and Superiors are frustrating us, we still need to trust in God alone. Because in this life, nothing is guaranteed; not even positions of leadership. A single incident or development can change our story entirely. If we humbly and patiently trust in God, at the proper time things will fall in place.
Among other things, the Catholic Church teaches that love and wilful consent should precede any lawful union in the sacrament of marriage. Potential couples should accept and love each other for who they are. Humility is at the heart of this choice because couples are called to love one another and not to base their love on mere accidents or the circumstances surrounding one another. This is very important as many homes are in crisis today due to some accidental situations. Love between couples is diminishing due to poverty, lack, job loss, unemployment, sudden sickness, and discovery of regrettable past mistakes.
When certain unplanned events happen in our marriages, we can only work, pray and hope it changes instead allowing them to change us. Humility is loving one another unconditionally in marriage while accepting we do not have control over certain things. Challenges will definitely come in marriages. So why compare your struggling husband with other successful men? Why pressurise him to meet certain demands when you know this can lead him to evil and can destroy your marriage? Why should a husband or wife abandon the other due to some protracted illness and choose to live irresponsibly because things are not as they used to be before? If we knew of these possible challenges, it is expected that we humbly accept them when they come.
When we look at life generally, we would all agree that nothing on this planet earth lasts forever. So be humble. Aging is growth but it also draws us closer to the grave. The first reading of today admonishes that the greater we are, the more we must humble ourselves. The parable of Jesus in the gospel further reminds us that it is God who humbles and exalts. We may not be happy where we are in life today, but we must not push to make things happen our own way. We only need to justly work hard and trust in God’s volition who knows the best for us.
Our opportunities in life should never be abused or taken for granted; for we may not always have them. Nothing is guaranteed in this life. Our jobs, businesses, wealth, health, and the many other privileges we enjoy presently can all come crashing down in a split second. Just a single phone call can change or mar the rest of our lives. We are not even sure of tomorrow. If we realise this; if we are conscious that it is God who holds our destiny, then we will understand the reason why we should be humble.
We can draw wisdom from the words of 1Samuel 2:6-8. It says, “It is the Lord who kills and brings to life; he brings men to the grave and raises them on high. It is the Lord who gives poverty and riches; he humbles and he exalts. He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honour.” Where we are today, we may not be tomorrow. And where we shall be tomorrow, we may not remain for the rest of our lives. So when God says to us “Friend, go up higher”. We should never forget that we are just few steps above where we were before. And that crashing down can come so easy.
PRAYER FOR THE DAY
Lord Jesus, help us to always recognise our nothingness; to accept things we cannot change and to humbly trust in you. Amen.