Humility is not weakness, it helps us … to be a somebody … because WE are … not because I am
The First Reading introduces the attitude of humility. Humility is not weakness but, rather, respect for those around us, and especially for those under our authority. God is modelling the virtue of humility, so that we may not be ashamed (or too proud) to also be humble.
At times in the Old Testament, God is presented as angry and punishing the people. However, for the most part we see God giving the people many chances. God sounds like a parent… eg. Angry parent: “Johnny, if you touch the cake in the fridge, again, I’ll break your arm! OK?”
Later: “Johnny, what am I to do with you? Why can’t you listen? Go to bed without dinner!”
The next day, the parents have forgotten the cake and pushed Johnny off to school. That’s a form of humility. God wants us all to live in peace and be prosperous. But it can only happen we live according to a set of “rules” that shows respect to each other: humility.
Applying the Gospel is a bit tough this week. Let us listen to William Barclay explain the first part so well: …the Rabbis and the wise men rejected Jesus, and the simple people accepted him. The intellectuals had no use for him; but the humble welcomed him. …be careful to see clearly what Jesus meant here. He is not condemning intellectual power; he condemned intellectual pride. Cleverness does not shut out; it is pride. Stupidity does receive; it is humility.
Do we listen? Especially in Religious Community as older men, do we listen to the new, younger men? Or are we afraid of losing control? In family life, do we listen to our children who have an idea? And, if they give an idea, do we dismiss it or value it (whether good/ bad)?
When we encourage the children to share ideas, and train them how to sharpen their ideas by positive feedback and correction, then we develop children who will be connected to family life, will feel valued with a strong sense of belonging (one of our key emotional needs).
In the beginning, it’s tiresome when kids come up with silly ideas however, if we take time to listen and help them improve, we develop children who will one day give us brilliant ideas.
The above also applies to employers and employees: create a culture of listening and valuing, and the business will thrive because employees feel valued and become more intelligent.
A valuable lesson in pride verses humility is the Kodak company which invented camera film for photos: they didn’t change. In contrast, Fuji Film diversified and thrived: a lesson for us.
C.S. Lewis (1930’s) says: According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere flea bites in comparison: pride leads to every other vice: it’s the complete anti-God state of mind: it is pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation, every family, since the world began.
What is Pride? We usually think pride is arrogance and ego. But, upon reflection, pride is another name for fear: fear of being nobody, of change, of competition, fear of missing out!
And, yet, change is the one constant factor in all our lives: we cannot be alpha dog forever: one day our sons and daughters will be telling us where to go and what to do. It’s a good idea to develop a good relationship when they are young so they will speak nicely to us tomorrow!
The drift away from church has been partly fuelled by the bad example of priests and other events; however, a large part is the fear of accepting the yoke of Jesus Christ. This yoke, built on the 10 Commandments, limits our movement to a certain extent. Especially when we are young, the desire for material things and pleasure (especially sexual), is like a drug.
It’s appealing because it gives immediate responses. However, like most drugs, it is short lived and has many negative side-effects: empty pockets, headaches, sexual diseases, loneliness, frustration/ anger, a loss of meaning in life, and no preparation for later life.
Materialism and Individualism is also a yoke: it makes us slaves of what other people think, and our own addictions to pleasure however we do it. Perhaps it is something we all have to try, and choose to reject. But that’s a tough road to walk: I want to blame others and not myself.
The yoke Christian faith is more like a slow-release medicine that works over time to heal our fears and pain: to be a somebody because we are, not because I am.
The good thing is that God is ever patient. We can choose to throw off the worldly yoke, and accept the yoke of Christ at any time in our lives: we are never too late for God.
Let us pray to be not afraid as we enter into the week ahead to be humble: to involve others, and make time to listen to others. The results will amaze us: our children and employees might actually like us once more.
“Pride is your greatest enemy, humility is your greatest friend.” John Stott.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI