HOMILY & IDEAS

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

Here are some stones I have overturned to see what ideas are underneath. I hope you can grab hold of something, pull -- and discover that it has some homiletic roots.

The readings this week deals with the issue of humility.

This word deserves a bit of clarification; in fact, perhaps a homily could be built around that very clarification.

The word -- Humility -- and its derivations can suffer an identity crisis these days; especially when we hear such phrases as -- I have never felt so humiliated before in my life, or -- That guy needs to get beaten with a humble stick.

In a few words, Humility is plainly and simply the proper understanding of our own worth.

Humility requires one not to overestimate his worth; however, it does not presuppose that one needs to underestimate his self worth either; for that would be self-contempt.

To feel Self-Contempt is to feel worthless and to live without any hope for improvement or achievement; rather there is only despair.

Instead we simply admit the truth about ourselves: We do not know everything, we do not do everything right, we are all imperfect and sinners. Nevertheless, we also recognize that we are made in the image and likeness of God and that we are called and empowered to help build the kingdom of God with our God-given gifts.

Only the humble are truly open to learning. Only the humble have true hope.

Those who hold themselves in self-contempt do not think they can learn and have no hope that this situation could possibly change.

Those who are arrogant believe that there is nothing more to learn in life and that they are not in need of hope.

If there is a challenge for the humble person perhaps it is simply to keep pure the motivations of what actions are done out of humility and love. In other words, he should only act out of his natural, God-given desire to love; rather than his need to be loved back.

Jesus speaks about giving to the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. Giving to this group can be tricky; for when we give or love the poor we may also at the same time feel superior from the position that we have something to give; but they do not. Sure, in a sense our motivations can be seen as pure to some degree; for we know we CAN NOT be paid back to the extent that we have given; yet the way our position makes us feel can be our undoing. Do we feel good simply about the opportunity to spread GodÕs love; or do we feel good because we feel superior to the person we are giving to? Keeping this in check will do one well.

It is said of Thomas Hardy, the great 19th century poet and novelist, that even after his great talent was discovered and any newspaper would have paid enormously to publish him; he would still send a self-addressed stamped envelope to the newspaper publisher in the event that his poem or short story was rejected for printing.

A similar story that personifies humility is told of Dorothy Day, the foundress of the Catholic worker who once was sitting having a conversation with a disheveled, homeless person who had come into the house for a meal and when she recognized a reporter who had entered into the house pacing back and forth waiting for the conversation to end she looked directly at him and asked: Are you waiting to speak to one of us?

We have all been witnessed one of those wonderful earthly-reward moments where an individual is lifted up and exulted against their will -- and we can not help but to leap to our feet with applause and smiles. In fact, the more the person shuns this moment of recognition, the louder we cheer.

We feel the electricity generated by the recognition, for example, of a Catholic elementary school custodian who has put in 45 years of humble, quiet, saintly, service and is about to lock the doors for the last time in his career. He always wore a smile, he always had a song in his heart, he worked hard to provide for his family, he is known and loved by 3 generations of school kids, he treated each child as special, he never wanted the spotlight, he kept a low profile, but he held his head up with dignity and pride for the work he provided for almost 5 decades. And when hundreds of people who he has served secretly gather in the gymnasium to surprise him with a going away party it is a moment that one never forgets. It gives us goose bumps because in the moment of the adulation and applause we know that this attention is the last thing he seeks -- and that is what makes us applaud and whistle, and cheer all the louder.

What makes us do that? The Law of the kingdom is ironic: If you give to get a reward; no reward will come. if you give with no reward in mind; a reward is certain and we love to help deliver that reward on behalf of God.

Let us ask for the gift of humility this weekend. To feel our God-give self-worth; but that it never become exaggerated to the point where it keeps us from learning, from hoping, and from loving others out of our pure desire to love and not simply to be loved back.

May we be grateful for being made worthy by God simply to be invited to His banquet regardless of where we may sit. Let us hear these words at Mass this weekend with a heightened awareness: We thank you lord for counting us worthy to stand in your presence to serve you -- and -- This is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world; happy are those who are called to his supper.

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