Bulletin: August 28, 2022
Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
If you look up the origins of the word “humility,” you will find that it is related to humus, dirt or earth. Gardeners and farmers know that it is a particularly rich kind of soil, composed by the decay of leaves and other organic material that has fallen on it. Too often we misunderstand it to mean not accepting compliments, relentlessly putting ourselves down, failing to accept our gifts in a positive way. None of this carries with it the meaning of being grounded in reality. Both our limits and our abilities, our grace and even our sin fall upon our lives to enrich us. In their different ways, Sirach and Jesus tell us to accept our lives, to be aware of who we are. Rather than presuming we deserve a higher-up place at the table, we ought to wait to be called to our rightful place, to be blessed with the joy of the righteous.
WHAT HUMILITY IS NOT
It’s easy to feel surrounded in our world. We have numerous technological means through which we can receive information (much of it put into circulation unfiltered). Ben Sira, author of the first reading, was in a similar situation: Israel was surrounded by much Greek philosophy and culture in addition to that of their Near-Eastern neighbors and their own. Hard to filter all that out and maintain their grounding in the covenant with God. However, Ben Sira manages to do that much-needed filtering for them, warning his students about pride (the sin of Eden). He promotes humility instead. It is an attitude of courtesy and respect to others, and not a mode of self-abasement. Rather, it refers to an awareness of one’s role in the world, offering appropriate respect always, deference only when called for, arrogance never. The mercy of God comes from this humility.
HOW TO BE HUMBLE
Ben Sira concludes that the ears listening to wisdom will rejoice. Jesus has such wisdom to offer today on the topic of humility. Those who hold position or riches would normally presume they were assured a good seat at the table. They are told “step back.” Instead, in the spirit of Ben Sira’s lesson on humility, they ought to wait to be invited up. Those schooled in the writings of Ben Sira may have nodded in agreement. Jesus then rips up the etiquette book. Do not to invite family and friends to your table, Jesus says, but welcome those who have no status, those who cannot repay you. In this way, Jesus makes the poor and outcast the ones who actually are able to exalt the humble. Luke’s world was as polytheistic and multicultural as Ben Sira’s, with plenty of outsiders and unclean folks to go around. Welcome these first, Jesus says, quite literally turning the table on his listeners!
Today’s Readings: Sir 3:17–18, 20, 28–29; Ps 68:4–5, 6–7, 10–11; Heb 12:18–19, 22–24a; Lk 14:1, 7–14