Gospel Luke 14:1,7-14
On a sabbath day Jesus had gone for a meal to the house of one of the leading Pharisees; and they watched him closely. He then told the guests a parable, because he had noticed how they picked the places of honour. He said this, ‘When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take your seat in the place of honour. A more distinguished person than you may have been invited, and the person who invited you both may come and say, “Give up your place to this man.” And then, to your embarrassment, you would have to go and take the lowest place. No; when you are a guest, make your way to the lowest place and sit there, so that, when your host comes, he may say, “My friend, move up higher.” In that way, everyone with you at the table will see you honoured. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’
Then he said to his host, ‘When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not ask your friends, brothers, relations or rich neighbours, for fear they repay your courtesy by inviting you in return. No; when you have a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; that they cannot pay you back means that you are fortunate, because repayment will be made to you when the virtuous rise again.’
The themes of pride and humility are obvious throughout the readings today.
They are the most important of themes because they are the foundation stones of the life of sin or the life of holiness. Indeed the personality of an individual is formed largely by the degree of pride or humility evident in a person or the things a person takes pride in.
Pride is the original sin and in many respects the only sin. It is from the fundamental sin of pride that unworthy attitudes and deeds follow. Pride is the root of sin. It is a radical turning away from God and others. It is a belief in self, a self-sufficiency, which seeks only to build up its own kingdom of selfishness. It is the sin of Adam, the sin of all. The cry of Adam, the sin of disobedience, was, ‘I will not serve’. Adam refused God’s dominion and brought great suffering on himself and on others.
It was to rescue us from our own error and to free us from the certainty and finality of death that Christ humbled himself to come among us as man. By his humility he cancelled out the pride of Adam. By his obedience he undid the disobedience of us all. He came among the poor, lived among the poor, and promised that the kingdom of God belonged to the poor.
Humility is an attitude which is utterly realistic. It means acknowledging before God and others our dependence on God. We must allow God to be God and accept that we are creatures, limited and finite and subject to death. It means acknowledging before God all that is worthy and good in ourselves and in our lives. It means thanking God always for the blessings and good things we enjoy. It also means being realistic about the failings and limitations of our lives and struggling with them. To be humble is not to be constantly or overly negative about ourselves but to be realistic about what is good, bad and middling.
The humble are promised a great deal. God accepts the homage of the humble. (Eccl) Those who humble themselves will be exalted. There is however, no cure for the proud man’s malady.
(Eccl) When the virtuous rise again it is those who have chosen the humble path of Christ who will enter eternal life. They will get what they lived for, prayed for and hoped for, the company of God and of the faithful dead. Those who have lived a life of pride will also get what they lived for – themselves, alone.