Ordinary 22nd Sunday

Sir. 3: 17-18, 20, 28-29                         Heb. 12: 18-19, 22-24               Lk. 14: 1, 7-14



Humility can set right many of the problems our ego creates.


Ego & Its Self-Projection:

There was a Chinese king who, all of a sudden, renounced  his kingdom and wanted to become a monk. He went to a famous Zen master and told him, “I was a king. Now I have renounced everything and I want to become a monk.” The Zen master told him in an angry tone, “I don’t think that you are capable of becoming a monk. It is better that you go back, possess everything and remain a king.” The ex-king did not expect such a rebuff. He thought that the master would appreciate him for his renunciation. When he enquired the master for his rebuff, the master told him, “When you renounced the kingdom, nothing belongs to you. Then, what is the point in speaking about your kingship and kingdom? The ego is still active in you. Earlier your ego took pride in possessing everything. Now the same ego takes pride in the act of renunciation. Unless you are ready to renounce your ego, there is no point in renouncing other things.”

All of us carry our ego wherever we go, and it pops up now and then, though the frequency of it may vary from person to person. One of the things that the ego does is that it tries to show to others that we are better than others. Because of our ego, we try to prove to the world that we are somebody. The rat race we witness in this consumeristic society is just to prove to the world that we are somebody and that we are, in some way or the other, better than people around.

The problems this ego brings into our lives are numerous: It destroys our relationship; it makes us perceive the world with suspicion and mistrust; it makes us tensed and restless; it makes us ruthless and violent in order to win over others; it makes us believe that achievement and success are more important than love and happiness; it makes us incapable of love since love, in contrast to the self-centred ego, is other-centered. Finally and above all, since ego makes a person to be full of oneself, it does not allow God into one’s lives. That is why all the religions talk about the need of humility for a peaceful personal life, a harmonious societal relationship and a deep spiritual growth.

Humility: An Antidote:

All the three readings of today talk about the importance of humility. In the first reading, Sirach says, “My child, perform your tasks with humility; … The greater you are, the more you must humble yourself; …. For great is the might of the Lord; but by the humble he is glorified.” In the gospel, Jesus through a parable teaches a basic lesson of life “All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Real humility is nothing to do with feeling low of oneself, though outwardly both may look to be the same. Humility stems from self-awareness. When a person is aware of oneself, one begins to realize how limited and vulnerable one is. The body and mind we possess are limited by nature and are in the process of growth. When one becomes aware of this limitedness, one automatically begins to possess humility. When  a person does not possess humility, one begins to undergo humiliation. The words human, humility and humiliation come from the same Latin root humus, which means ‘mud’. We, human beings, are from mud, and on that account we are all vulnerable and limited. Those who are aware of this vulnerable and limited nature excel in humility. This self-awareness, and the resultant humility takes a person to greater heights since such a humble person is ready to work on one’s limitedness. On the contrary, unawareness of one’s own limitedness makes one think that s/he is the best in the world and that becomes a cause of one’s downfall. This is the meaning of the paradoxical statement of Jesus, “All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Humility: Its Benefits:

Humility is the best antidote to pride and it undoes all the problems ego creates: (i) Humility enhances our relationship; (ii) it makes our life steady and stable. Once someone asked Mother Teresa, “What is the secret behind your good works?” Her answer was, “Humility! It is the mother of all virtues. If you are humble, nothing would touch you, neither grace, nor disgrace. If blamed, you will not be discouraged. If praised, you will not put yourself on the pedestal.” (iii) It leads to harmonious living. “Without humility, there is no humanity” says John Buchan. (iv). It makes us to be more relaxed and secured. G.K. Chesterton wrote, “It is always the secure who are humble.”

More than all these benefits, the best one humility offers us is that it creates space for God in our lives. For God to work in and through us, we need to empty ourselves of all that is me, mine. “The greater you are, the more you must humble yourself; so you will find favor in the sight of the Lord” says Sirach. St. Augustine is to the point when he says, “If you uncover yourself, God will cover you.” In the second reading, the author of the book of Hebrews contrasts the Mount Sinai, wherein took place the old covenant, with the Mount Zion (i.e. Jerusalem) wherein took place the new covenant. Jesus, on Calvary, completely emptied himself and made humility to reach its peak. When a person completely empties / humbles oneself, one allows God to work through oneself. Needless to say that it was on the cross Jesus fully manifested his divinity.

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