Seek affirmation from God, not the world
Living the Word / Kim Padan
Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time/Aug. 28
Sirach 3:17-18,20,28-29; Psalm 68:4-5,6-7,10-11; Hebrews 12:18-19,22-24a; Luke 14:1,7-14
This weekend’s readings speak to us about the importance of humility. A quick glance at the culture, and we can readily see that the virtue of humility is sorely lacking. Ours is a culture fueled by popularity contests, flashy headlines, and numerous social media sites that make posting our opinions about everything so easy. We can post a response to an article or story from a celebrity whom we will likely never meet in person. The feedback we might receive from complete strangers can produce a bit of a rush. “Someone noticed me. Someone agreed with me. My opinion matters.”
Of course, we all do matter in the eyes of God. He created us intentionally and purposefully. And He has given us an intellect which hopefully helps us form good opinions about the world around us. Sharing our opinions is not necessarily a bad thing. We must look at the motivation in our own hearts. Are we looking to impress other people, or are we looking to please and serve God?
The word humility comes from the Latin humilitas, meaning of the earth or grounded. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia at NewAdvent.org, “The virtue of humility may be defined as ‘A quality by which a person considering his own defects has a lowly opinion of himself and willingly submits himself to God and to others for God’s sake.’”
Lowly? Submit? Once again, the life of a disciple is countercultural.
In this week’s Gospel passage, Jesus cautions us against thinking too highly of ourselves. He gives the example of being invited to a wedding banquet, choosing a seat of honor, only to be asked to move. How embarrassing! While I have not had that literal situation in my own life, I have had incidents where I assumed a particular honor would come my way, only to be (rightly) put in my place. That’s not a pleasant experience at all.
BEWARE FALSE HUMILITY
Still, we must guard ourselves against false humility. Most people can detect when humility is genuine versus when it is a pretense. As the Book of Sirach tells us, a humble person “will be loved more than a giver of gifts” and “will find favor with God.” Authentic humility is very attractive. Why? Because it mirrors Jesus Christ himself: “Take my yoke upon you, says the Lord, and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.”
Authentic humility is very attractive. Why? Because it mirrors Jesus Christ himself.
Psalm 68 reminds us that God has “made a home for the poor.” In fact, throughout Scripture we see evidence of God’s tender love for widows, orphans, and those living on the fringes of society. Too often these are the people who are forgotten or thought of as less valuable in our increasingly secular world. Yet, Jesus humbled himself by spending time with outcasts and calls us to do the same. In fact, in the Gospel passage, Jesus calls us to invite people to a banquet (even more, into our lives) who cannot repay us. We are called to serve and to love, not to keep tabs and not to think of ourselves as better than “those people.”
A couple of years ago, I heard about the Litany of Humility, but I didn’t look it up for months, and even then, I was hesitant to pray it. That should have been a clear sign to me that I need this prayer! Many of the words go directly against popular “feel good” culture.
In the prayer, one asks to be delivered from the desire for esteem, honor, praise, approval, and even love! Please know I am aware of the need for healthy self-esteem and support from loved ones. I do not believe this prayer, or any teaching of the Church is encouraging self-hatred. On the contrary, because we are created Imago Dei, there is intrinsic beauty and goodness in each of us. The challenge is balance.
Let us seek our affirmation from God, Who is the source of every gift we have. Let us serve and love others not for earthly rewards or headlines, but because it is how we are to live as disciples of Jesus Christ.
Kim Padan is a member of St. Paul Parish, Danville. She is the immediate past president of the Peoria Diocesan Council of Catholic Women and chairs the Spirituality Commission for the National Council of Catholic Women. She also serves as the formation director for the Mary Magdalene Chapter of Lay Dominicans, based in West Lafayette, Indiana.