Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29; Ps 68 God, in your goodness, you have made a home for the poor; Hebrews 12:18-19,22-24; Luke 14:1,7-14
The readings for today invite us to ponder a new Humility. There are many fascinating definitions of humility. There are just as many fascinating stories of people encountering humility in their life.
Both Jesus int he gospel and the first reading zero in on humility in a very concrete way. Yet, i believe it is the second reading that really holds the underlying truth of humility for us to embrace. I hope i can explain a bit as this blog unfolds.
First a tale of two authors. Douglas Adams wrote a scify fiction called a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe back in the 1970's. I spent some time reading it. It is a fascinating jaunt through the universe. Any novel that includes a depressed Robot surely is worth the read.
But in the novel, the author describes the best torture device: Total Perspective Vortex. This torture device is created by a husband who is being nagged by his wife to have a better sense of proportion.
He creates this device by which once someone is inside they are given in a momentary glimpse the full vastness of the unimaginable seemingly infinite stretching of all creation and that there on a microscopic dot on a microscopic dot is a note that says 'you are here'. It is torture device that enables the person to come face to face with the ugly truth of just how small they really are.
Usually this device, at least in the book, would leave the person mad because of this reality check.
Growing up this has always been the sense of humility that i understood. Humility is about smallness. It is a reality check in which we recognize our true self, and we are aware of the many short comings and failings that go to make up our life in such a way that we truly realize we are not better than anyone else. Though out defects may be different none the less they remain.
when we can hold on to our smallness then we can embrace the power of humility in our life. This is good start.
But as Christians I think humility is the opposite. It isn't looking at our smallness but rather our bigness, what we are created to be, what will become of us, what is our destiny.
This is what ultimately humbles us.
C S Lewis as a good take on this bigness that has been given to us.
"There is no ordinary men. You have never talked to a mere mortals. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations…these are mortals. To our life theirs is like the life of a gnat. But it is immortals that we joke with, work with, marry, snub, exploit, gossip about, betray, hurt, love….Next to God himself, our neighbor is the holiest object presented to our senses. If he is a christian neighbor then he is holy in a par excellence way for Christ, the glorifier and Glory himself, is truly hidden in him."
There is no ordinary men. You have never talked to mere mortals.
This is really the case of humility. We don't just stop at our smallness but look at our greatness, our destiny.
This is why the end of the gospel is so telling, "you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." Life is big. It is bigger than the here and now.
St Paul is trying to get us to understand this in the second readings. He poses the question, 'who do we approach when we approach God?"
He distinguishes between the mosaic covenant and the Davidic Covenant in Christ. In the Mosaic covenant God revealed himself in a way that scared the people, "blazing fire and gloomy darkness and storm and trumpet blast and voice such that those who heard begged that no further message be given."
Sounds horrific enough. But what of the covenant with Jesus.
"You have approached Mt Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and countless angels in festal gathering, the assembly of the first born enrolled in heaven, and God the judge of all, and the spirits of the just made perfect, and Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant, and the sprinkled blood that speaks more eloquently than that of Abel."
Who do we approach when we approach God but not God alone but all those in God. Not only the festal gathering of angels but the sprits of the just made perfect. Thats our destiny. That is you and I.
It is glory. It is the bigness that awaits us, that we are created for. If you notice, St Paul puts us all on the same tier. God, Jesus, angels, men/women glorified. This is not a merit but a gift.
This is more humbling than the Total Perspective Vortex. It is isn't that we are a microscopic dot on a microscopic dot, insignificant. But rather our existence has purpose and we are meaningful, significant. we are meant for glory. In the resurrection in the righteous we shall become what we are created to be.
We are not ordinary. We are not mere mortals.
Next to God Himself, our neighbor is the holiest object presented to our senses.
This is what is humbling.
The power of humility isn't that we think of ourselves less or think lessor ourselves but we put ourselves in the proper perspective of what awaits us by God' s mercy that leads us to glory as a gift.