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Our readings for this Sunday talk about the necessity of humility. Sirach urges us, “My child, conduct your affairs with humility.” Jesus says to us in the Gospel, “(T)he one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Even the Second Reading makes sure we know that God is completely above us, saying that we have approached “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem…and God the judge of all.”
The fall of Adam and Eve was the result of their pride, thinking that they could be God’s equal, deciding for themselves what is good and what is bad. Pride is one of the seven deadly sins, the result of an ego that is out of control.
Pride is remedied by the virtue (or good habit) of humility. True humility is not an abject debasement of oneself. No, humility is the result of having a realistic understanding of one’s place in the order of the world. It makes us admit that God is God and we are not.
When we understand that we are creatures and God is the creator, and when we accept that we are all children of the same God, we begin to understand the statement of Jesus that we must love God above all things and our neighbors as ourselves. To do this requires a good dose of humility. St. Paul says it well in his letter to the Philippians, “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important to yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). In today’s Gospel, Jesus would advise us to take the lowest place at the banquet, rather than the highest.
Humility, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) says, “is the foundation of prayer” (CCC, 2559). It quotes St. Augustine who said, “Man is a beggar before God.” Humility before God leads us to adore him in an “homage of the spirit to the ‘King of Kings’ (CCC, 2628).
So now, we have some insight into why Jesus and Sirach both advise us to have some humility. It is the only fitting stance we can have with one another and with God and it is in imitation of Jesus who emptied himself, “taking the form of a slave.” Yet, because he humbled himself, God exalted him. May he do the same for us who are humbled before an awesome God, sharing the same planet with one another.