Tuesday, October 18, 2016

30th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Humility.  It’s a virtue that seems to have been left behind in our current civil discourse.  To many people being humble connotes a sense of weakness.  Contrary to popular thinking, humility actually takes courage and strength, and affords even greater rewards as our readings this week will show:

Sirach 35:12-14, 16-18
Psalm 34:2-3, 17-18, 19, 23
2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18
Luke 18:9-14

Our faith teaches that we must approach our prayer with humility.  Our first reading from Sirach is an example.  Here he reminds us that all our prayers are heard by God, but those coming from the most humble among us “pierce the clouds”.  This sage from the 2nd century BCE reminds us that though we are all equal in God’s eyes, he also hears the cry of those who are marginalized… the weak, the oppressed, the orphan.  This idea has echoed through the ages, including in our Psalm when we sing, “The Lord hears the cry of the poor.”

Our second reading concludes our 7 week journey through Paul’s letters to Timothy.  This week’s passage takes us to the conclusion of his letter.  Though not intentional, our theme of humility continues as Paul, nearing the end of his life, reflects on his service to the Gospel.  He has suffered greatly, giving his all to bring the Gospel to the Gentiles, but has no regrets.  You can hear Paul’s sadness as he acknowledges he is nearing the end of his life, but this is anything but a lament... he is proud of the work he has done, and as always, offers himself as an example to his younger charge.

We then hear from Luke’s Gospel where we pick up right where we left off last week (with the dishonest judge).  In yet another story unique to Luke’s Gospel, Jesus turns from his disciples (who just heard the last parable) and faces the larger crowd (no doubt with some Pharisees among them) and gives them the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.  Here we witness the prayer of two men – one from a supposed holy man, and the other from a supposed sinner.  But which is the holy man, and which is the sinner?  Jesus gives us the answer… the one who’s prayer is honest is the one who will be saved.  Honesty and Humility work hand in hand as we face the Just Judge in prayer.

Final thoughts:
One of my favorite films is Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  At the climax of the film, Indiana must make it past three booby traps to retrieve the Holy Grail and save his father.  The elder Dr. Jones has discovered the three clues needed to get past these challenges.  The first challenge is “the breath of God” to which we are told “only the penitent man will pass.”  The younger Dr. Jones tries to think through what this means, coming to the realization that a “penitent man is humble before God.” and the proper stance to reflect this humility is by kneeling, and thus avoid being decapitated by a couple nasty looking circular blades.  Today we live in a society where kneeling is viewed as a sign of subservience.  But if we think that, we’re missing the point.  C. S. Lewis once said “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”  Put another way, we need to think of others first.  Humility is not meant to demean us or make us feel less worthy of God’s love.  Rather, it’s recognizing that the needs of others must come ahead of our own.  To recognize that we are part of a greater whole.  We, as individuals and as a people of God, must continually look outward.  Only then can we see the light.

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