In today’s gospel, Our Lord speaks of the importance of humility. In every Mass Our Lord himself sets the example; for every celebration of the Mass is a meal that renews his sacrifice on the Cross. As we ask forgiveness for the sins that caused such suffering, let us ask Our Lord for the strength to follow his example of humility.
We are all familiar with this gospel passage, in which Our Lord encourages the practice of humility. At a banquet to which he is invited, Our Lord is not at all impressed by the sight of the guests pushing themselves forward, scrambling for the best seats, and skilfully manoeuvring themselves into the places of honour. Our Lord makes a comment about good manners at table and from it he draws conclusions concerning an invitation to an even greater banquet to which we are all called: the eternal banquet in the Kingdom of Heaven.
I think it’s true to say that humility doesn’t get good publicity these days. In a world of greed, selfishness, power and privilege, where the ruthless and the most ambitious survive, and where those who push themselves forward succeed, humility doesn’t rate too highly. In fact, nowadays, humility is often associated with weakness and a poor self-image. But humility is of course none of these things. Rather true humility is an attempt to try and see ourselves as God sees us. Humility is taking an honest measure of ourselves without being boastful, pompous or proud, realizing that we are who we are before God and nothing more. It’s an admission that our talents come from the hand of God who has seen fit to work through us. Modern society conditions us to view our gifts and talents as if they are our own, that they belong to us, without realizing that they are to be used for the good of the community and for the glory of God. I nearly always have a good laugh when I look at what my Facebook friends have been up to. I may be old fashioned, but I just can’t understand some of the selfish comments some people put up there to draw attention to themselves and their achievements. Look at me, look at what I’ve done, shower me with praise and make me feel good. The truth is that we are all vessels of clay, and cracked vessels at that, and we have much to be modest about. In one sense we are worthless, we are merely dust and ashes, but God took hold of our worthless dust and he gave it eternal value by turning it into his own image and likeness. And so our lives only have meaning when we are sincere and honest in our relations with God. We need to practice humility if we are to be true to ourselves and to God. Humility is the key which opens the gate of heaven for us.
Today’s gospel warns us against all forms of pride and self-glorification. The message is so obvious that we may fail to give it serious thought. The truth is we should take a hard look at ourselves for what we are. Pride is a road going nowhere. Like a frost which nips our spiritual growth in the bud, pride makes us so self-centred and so full of our own importance that there is precious little place for God in our lives. When we’re not looking at ourselves and what we want, we’re too busy looking at other peoples’ faults, and we fail to see our own. Pride cuts us off from reality and makes us prisoners of ourselves. In God’s eyes the proud person takes a very lowly place because God rejects the proud and raises up the humble: for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the man who humbles himself will be exalted.